UN rights chief raps Australia on refugees, racism

May 25, 2011 10:50

CANBERRA - The United Nations' top human rights watchdog on Wednesday attacked Australia's tough refugee policies and the treatment of outback Aborigines, saying there was a strong undercurrent of racism in the country.

Long-standing policies of locking up asylum seekers had "cast a shadow over Australia's human rights record", and appeared to be completely arbitrary, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said.

"I come from South Africa and lived under this, and am every way attuned to seeing racial discrimination," Pillay, a former anti-apartheid campaigner and international criminal court judge, told reporters at the end of a six-day visit.

"There is a racial discriminatory element here which I see as rather inhumane treatment of people, judged by their differences, racial, color or religions," she said.

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