United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Photo: Mary Altaffer A self-portrait from a child in an offshore detention centre. Photo: Supplied
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The world’s top diplomat has issued an extraordinary plea to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over Australia’s asylum seeker policy, voicing unease over offshore detention and urging him to reconsider the nation’s entire border protection regime.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met Mr Turnbull on the margins of the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur last week, trading his usual soft diplomacy for stronger language when discussing refugees and migrants in the Asia-Pacific region.
In a statement, the United Nations said Mr Ban “expressed concern over the detention conditions in Australia’s offshore processing centres” and encouraged Mr Turnbull to “reconsider” Operation Sovereign Borders, Australia’s military-led regime to combat people smuggling and oversee borders.
Counter-terrorism dominated talks at the 18-nation summit, one of a string of international meetings attended by Mr Turnbull less than three months into the job.
It came as the Australian navy turned away a suspected asylum seeker boat from Christmas Island on Friday, and as Australia prepares to accept 12,000 refugees fleeing devastation in Syria.
The UN statement said Mr Ban acknowledged Australia’s longstanding commitment to refugee resettlement, but appealed to Mr Turnbull to “share responsibilities”.
The pair reportedly discussed problems in Syria and Iraq and exchanged views on preventing violent extremism.
“The Secretary-General indicated that he is preparing a comprehensive Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism for presentation to the General Assembly in the beginning of 2016, and looked forward to the support of Australia,” the statement said.
It is understood the language used in the United Nations statement is stronger than that Mr Ban used personally when speaking to Mr Turnbull.
Speaking to reporters in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend, Mr Turnbull said recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Bamako had focused attention on how to counter violent extremism.
“We are intensifying our co-operation on counter terrorism with all of our partners in the region. Sharing intelligence, of course, is of critical importance,” he said, adding that countering terrorist messaging on social media was also a high priority.
Mr Ban and Mr Turnbull also discussed climate change and negotiations ahead of global climate talks in Paris later this month.
Mr Ban “encouraged Australia to lead efforts to ensure a low-carbon, climate-resilient future,” the UN statement said.
Meantime, the Senate on Monday passed a bill to remove all children from onshore detention by Christmas.
The Migration and Maritime Powers Amendment Bill (No.1) will now return to the lower house.
The amendments proposed by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young were passed with the support of Labor and crossbenchers.
Other passed amendments included opening detention centres to media scrutiny, mandatory reporting of abuse and reversing law changes that punish staff for speaking out about conditions in detention.
Senator Hanson-Young said Mr Turnbull must now decide whether to “reverse the will of the Senate and the people just so that he can keep children locked up in detention?”
“These children have had their childhood taken from them … at least now they can have a real Christmas,” she said.
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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.