13 January 2009
New report highlights ongoing problems in immigration detention
Releasing the 2008 report on conditions in immigration detention today, Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes called on the government to translate its ‘new directions’ for Australia’s immigration detention system into policy, practice and legislative change as soon as possible.
“While it is true we have seen improvements in the way Australia treats immigration detainees, our report shows we are still seeing children being held in detention facilities, people being detained for prolonged and indefinite periods and dilapidated detention centres being used for accommodation,” said Mr Innes, “and now we also have the disturbing reality that the massive prison-like Christmas Island facility is open for business.”
Commissioner Innes said the major recommendations in the report include that:
* minimum standards for conditions and treatment of persons in immigration detention should be legislated
* the Migration Act should be amended so that immigration detention is the exception rather than the norm and the decision to detain a person is subject to prompt review by a court
* detention of people on Christmas Island should be ceased
* the recommendations of the national inquiry into children in immigration detention should be implemented by the government.
Mr Innes said he was particularly concerned that, while children are no longer held in immigration detention centres, they are held in other closed detention facilities on the mainland and Christmas Island.
“The time is now for the government to amend Australia’s immigration laws to ensure they comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Commissioner Innes said. “Detention of children in any type of immigration detention facility should only be used as an absolute last resort.”
Commissioner Innes said he also had serious concerns that, despite the end of the so-called ‘Pacific solution’, asylum seekers are still being detained and processed on the very remote Christmas Island – 2600 km from the nearest Australian capital city.
“The island’s isolation makes it difficult for external groups from the mainland to monitor what is going on there, and the island community is so small that detainees find it very hard to access basic services.”
Citing the dilapidated infrastructure at some of the mainland detention centres as particularly worrying, Mr Innes said the stage 1 section at Villawood was the worst of all. “We have repeatedly called for the demolition of Villawood stage 1,” Commissioner Innes said. “It is shameful, not only that it remains standing, but that people are still being detained there in its utterly miserable conditions.”
The 2008 Immigration detention report covers inspections of the immigration detention facilities around Australia, including Christmas Island, between June and September 2008. In addition to those listed above, the report contains a comprehensive set of recommendations about Australia’s immigration detention system.
A summary factsheet about the report is available at www.humanrights.gov.au/human_rights/immigration/sum_factsheet.html
The full report can be downloaded from www.humanrights.gov.au/human_rights/immigration/idc2008.html
Treatment of asylum seekers no better under Rudd: report
Date: January 13 2009
ASYLUM seekers are still being held in miserable conditions despite the softening of immigration policy, a new report finds.
The Australian Human Rights Commission's annual report on detention found the Rudd Government has not made the changes to detention policy it announced last July. The report found asylum seekers, including children, continue to be held indefinitely.
The report also found that the prison-like environment, particularly at the Villawood facility, had not been improved.
One detainee was identified as being held for more than six years despite Labor's policy to detain people only as a last resort and for the minimum amount of time.
People being processed on Christmas Island do not have adequate access to basic services, the report says. And access to interpreters, translated documents, and recreational and educational activities at all detention centres is lacking.
Government policy says all detainees will have access to legal representation and the opportunity to appeal Immigration Department decisions.
The Human Rights Commissioner, Graeme Innes, said it was "shameful" that people continued to be held in "utterly miserable" conditions.
The report recommends closing the Christmas Island facility and legislation to set standards for the treatment of detainees.
It calls for the Migration Act to be amended so detention is the exception rather than the norm, and any decision to detain a person be subject to prompt review by a court.
The Immigration Department says it is working to address the concerns raised in the report but many improvements had been made.
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