19 Oct 2012

UNHCR queries Nauru capacity in asylum issues

8:43 am on 19 October 2012

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has expressed fresh concerns about Nauru's ability to process refugee claims on the scale anticipated as it takes Australia's asylum seekers.

Legislation tabled in the Nauru parliament has confirmed asylum seekers sent by Canberra under its revived offshore processing regime will have their claims processed under Nauru law as soon as practicable.

But the legislation also enables failed asylum seekers to challenge their determinations in the High Court in Australia -- although the High Court judges will examine the claims with reference to Nauru, not Australian, law.

A Refugee Status Review Tribunal will be established on Nauru to examine the appeals of failed asylum seekers, and those unsuccessful in gaining a protection visa through the tribunal can then take their claims to the Nauru Supreme Court, before the Australian High Court.

A spokesman for the UNHCR in Australia says the organisation remains very concerned about the available experience and expertise to process claims on the scale and complexity envisaged by the arrangements.

The UNHCR also urged the government to begin without further delay processing asylum-seekers.

Canberra has reportedly said this is about a year off.