"I know that Australia's asylum and migration policies have become entrenched over the years by successive governments," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said

UN urges politicians to keep medevac laws

AUSTRALIA has been urged to take a more humane approach to asylum seekers but not dismiss those pushing back against refugees as bigots or racists.

And the head of the United Nation's human rights body has urged politicians to hold fast against the federal government's bid to repeal so-called medevac laws

The laws, passed against the government's wishes earlier this year, gave refugees in offshore detention a speedier path to medical treatment in Australia.

"I am concerned that the plans to repeal this law may mean more - and costly - court battles, with lives being put at risk," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in Sydney on Tuesday.

"I appeal to members of parliament not to reverse these small steps of progress that have been made."

She also urged a more humane approach to the offshore processing of asylum seekers, saying using non-custodial, community-based accommodation would reduce the distress and harm to the people involved.

"I know that Australia's asylum and migration policies have become entrenched over the years by successive governments," she said.

"But I strongly believe that we are at a point now where it is time to roll back these policies, or at least mitigate their worst effects."

Ms Bachelet's speech to the Australian Human Rights Commission's conference comes less than a week after Scott Morrison decried "negative globalism" and unaccountable internationalist bureaucracies.

Later pressed for specific examples, the prime minister said there had been plenty of advice about what Australia should or should not do on border protection.

Ms Bachelet also acknowledged there had been no shortage of recommendations from UN officials in recent years as to how Australia could advance human rights.

She said it was a challenging time globally for human rights.

"Rather than labelling people who favour refugee push backs as bigots and racists, we need to listen and recognise the fear, anxiety, insecurity or other factors that may be behind such attitudes," she said.

"We need to use reason and evidence - and empathy - to help temper visceral emotional responses."



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