Iran’s Foreign Minister says Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, thousands of whom are Iranian, is “unconscionable” .
Mohammed Javad Zarif wrapped up his historic tour of the Pacific and south-east Asia in Canberra on Wednesday, saying constant criticisms of Iran’s human rights record failed to recognise Iran’s own concerns about other countries.
In an extended interview with the ABC’s Lateline program, Dr Zarif targeted Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, hundreds of whom languish in detention on offshore detention camps.
“We don’t like some aspects of the way Australia treats Iranians who have been basically lied to by human smugglers who come to Australia,” he said.
“The fact that they live in unconscionable situations,” he added.
Former Labor Foreign Minister Bob Carr argued Iranian migrants were arriving on boats carrying asylum seekers, which arrived in Australia during the Rudd-Gillard years.
Dr Zarif said any Iranian wrongly claiming persecution to try and gain access to Australia had to pay the price for their actions.
“People who use human rights for political reasons…people who make the arguments have to pay for it,” he said.
Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, particularly the use of offshore detention, is frequently condemned internationally, including by the United Nations and groups such as Human Rights Watch (HRW).
So too though is Iran’s human rights record. In its 2015 report on the country , HRW condemned Iran’s use of the death penalty, restrictions on free speech and dissent, and discrimination against women, among other issues.
Dr Zarif played down concerns about Iran’s human rights record in the interview, saying the country was one of the few in the region to have elections and a human rights rapporteur.
He urged his counterparts to engage in a dialogue with Iran instead of preaching one-way monologues.
Dr Zarif’s comments are a blow for the Australian government which has unsuccessfully been pleading with Tehran to return failed Iranian asylum seekers.
Last week, Julie Bishop was quoted talking up the strength of the relationship in an article published by the foreign minister’s hometown newspaper The West Australian, which predicted a deal would be struck during her Iranian counterpart’s visit.
But the Iranian Ambassador to Australia swiftly rejected speculation of an agreement .
And Dr Zarif said while any Iranian who opted to come home would have their safety guaranteed “without question”, his government would never accept the forced return of its citizens.
“We did not send these people out, these people were lured by human traffickers and by propaganda,” he said.
Source : SMH AU