By Phil Mercer, VOA
SYDNEY-Iran’s foreign minister has criticized Australia’s policy towards asylum seekers. Mohammad Javad Zarif also rejected continued scrutiny of Tehran’s human rights record and its ballistic missile program during a visit to the country.
Zarif is known for his forthright views. At the end of an official two-day visit to Australia, Iran’s foreign minister again took aim at Israel and the United States for threatening to bomb what he called Iran’s “peaceful nuclear facilities.”
Zarif also tackled the contentious issue of human rights, just days after the United Nations reported on an "extremely high" rate of executions in Iran, especially for juvenile offenders.
In an interview with Australian television, the foreign minister said while other countries were concerned about human rights in Iran, he too was worried about the treatment of asylum seekers detained in Australia.
“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. Well, the fact [is] that they live in unconscionable situations,” said Zarif.
Asylum seekers who try to reach Australia by boat are sent to migrant camps in the South Pacific, where conditions have been described by rights groups as “inhumane.” The government in Canberra insists that offshore processing of refugee claims has helped to stem a steady flow of asylum seekers risking their lives at sea.
Zarif said the 9,000 Iranians who had sought asylum in Australia were preyed upon by traffickers and propaganda from "government sources.”
This week, Canberra has been trying to strike a deal with Iran to forcibly repatriate asylum seekers whose refugee claims are rejected in Australia. But opposition politicians have insisted that safeguards must be in place to ensure the safety of anyone who returns.
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