Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Year in detention 'excessive'

Yuko Narushima, smh

December 2, 2008

DISSENTERS have broken away from a parliamentary group investigating Australia's immigration detention policy, arguing for more dramatic change including legal rights for detainees and a one-month cap on detention.

Conservative Liberal senator Alan Eggleston joined party colleague Petro Georgiou and Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young in criticising the majority's 18 recommendations for not going far enough.

The unlikely splinter group wanted detainees to be granted immediate access to the courts. This would allow them to appeal for release when there were "no reasonable grounds that their detention is justified", a supplementary report prepared by the group said.

The lack of judicial review has meant that women and children had been held unreasonably, the report said.

The Government can detain people while immigration officials conduct health, security and identity checks. Beyond that, people deemed a risk to the community should only be held in detention for a maximum of a year, the committee majority said.

But the dissenting trio said a year in detention was "grossly excessive" and called for a limit of 30 days. Public servants should not have the "unfettered power to detain", they said, taking a swipe at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's "chequered" history.

The refugee advocacy group, A Just Australia, said the main report was disappointing. It provided only a negligible step in the right direction, the national co-ordinator, Kate Gauthier, said.

"This inquiry has missed out on a vital opportunity to put the new detention values into practice.

We'd like to see the committee pay more than lip service to human rights."

The official report recommended all criteria by which detainees could be deemed a risk be published. It suggested health checks could be completed in five days and more than $20 million in debts owed by current and former detainees to the Government be waived by the Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner.

Last night the Minister for Immigration, Chris Evans, was standing by his policy. "The Rudd Government is committed to ensuring that health, security and identity checks are all completed before people are released into the community," he said. "The public is entitled to expect that only those persons who pose no danger to the community are able to live in the community while their visa status is resolved."