The Australian government has been transporting refugee seekers to such facilities since 2001. Two centers on Nauru and Manus islands have been operating as effective concentration camps for hundreds of asylum seekers since 2012. Breaking international treaties it’s ratified, Australia refuses to relocate such individuals within its borders.

“Australia’s offshore processing policies have brought misery and suffering to 1,600 people who remain trapped on remote Pacific islands, the vast majority of whom have been found to be refugees,” says Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch’s Australia director. Investigations have found cruelty and human-rights violations to be commonplace in the detention centers, she notes.

Australia’s policies, which its authorities like to call “harsh but effective,” have led to attempted suicide by children as young as 10, and adults killing themselves out of desperation.

The acts of keeping migrants in captivity and refusing asylum seekers entrance into a country—as Australia has been doing, and Italy aspires to do—are not compatible with the 1951 Convention Relating on the Status of Refugees, a UN treaty that builds upon the 14th article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which establishes the right to seek asylum from persecution in other countries.

Yet Australia, which Pearson calls “a world leader in how to be cruel to refugees,” has been able to get away with its behavior with no concrete repercussions, even when documents emerged showing horrific abuse conducted in its imprisonment camps.

To be sure, the UN agencies for refugees and human rights have repeatedly condemned Australia’s policy, calling it everything from “immensely harmful” to “torture.” Such alarms, however, have not resulted in sanctions—either multilateral or bilateral. The US won’t allow the UN Security Council, where as a permanent member it wields veto power, to impose sanctions against its close ally.

In short, the country’s actions have been tolerated without much ado—positioning Australia, like other Western countries, essentially above the (international) law. And if Australia has been getting away with it for years, why can’t Italy, or Hungary, or others?

“Instead of blindly following Australia’s harmful approach, countries should be calling Australia out,” says Pearson.

An occasion to do so will arise in the days ahead when the UN General Assembly discusses, among other issues, the treatment and handling of refugees.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.