KEVIN RUDD’S suspension of refugee processing is legally contentious and flies in the face of his ambition to have Australia taken seriously on the international stage, a law professor and a former diplomat say.”This is probably the most repugnant refugee policy of any Western country that is a party to the international refugee convention. I know of no precedent of anything approaching a Western democracy doing anything as brutal to refugees as this,” the Deakin University professor of law, Mirko Bagaric, said.”There is no clause in the refugee convention that allows for the suspension of that treaty. They are clearly violating international obligations.”The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has rejected Labor’s claim that other countries had frozen asylum claims from Sri Lanka. People fleeing Sri Lanka and Afghanistan last year made up 79 per cent of all boat arrivals at Australia.Over that period, the Immigration Department found 854 Afghans and 112 Sri Lankans were owed protection.The Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, said yesterday that the decision to suspend processing was based on security information from government and other sources. ”The bulk of this information is not publicly available,” a spokeswoman said.Bruce Haigh, a former diplomat posted to Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, said Australia’s freeze was a shield against opposition criticism of the government’s border protection policies.”Rudd has a glass jaw,” he said. ”He has been prepared to trash his quest for the UN Security Council just to make sure he is re-elected.”The people in Sri Lanka are saying the assessments the Australian government is making are nonsense.”
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