Julie Bishop is heading to Iran to ask its government to take back failed asylum seekers

Manus Island Detention Centre. Photo: Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship via Getty.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will make the rare trip to Tehran in Iran next week, in a bold move that is hoped will get the country to take back failed asylum seekers detained in Australia.

Currently there are believed to be around 7000 Iranian asylum seekers in Australia, making up more than 20% of the people held in mainland immigration detention centres.

The Middle Eastern country has so far refused to accept any Iranians from Australia who have been forced to return but the Abbott government is hoping to clear the backlog from the troubled Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea, which has been plagued with claims of human rights violations.

In late 2013 Amnesty International reported the conditions in the detention centre were overcrowded, with not enough water toilets or showers, and that the food had flies in it.

Asylum seekers detained in the centre have also held riots, started fires and organised breakouts. Just recently a 33-year-old Iranian asylum seeker ended up in hospital following a hunger strike .

Iran’s recent negotiations with US regarding a nuclear deal may have opened a channel for the West, and in this situation Australia, to make an agreement possible.

While the two countries have had diplomatic relations for more than 40 years, Australia continues to maintain sanctions against the Islamic state over concerns about its nuclear program, as well as banning the sale of gold, precious metals and diamonds to the government without a permit.

Australian says officially that it remains “deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Iran… including violations of political and media freedoms; and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities”.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Bishop will embark for Tehran next week. Read more here.

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