Saturday, March 31, 2012


30 March 2012

DETENTION DISGRACE – Legislated time limit on detention a must.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC)

Today’s Joint Select Committee Inquiry into Detention Report describes in 221 pages of evidence, an immigration detention system that is out of control and shameful.  The conclusion is unequivocal. The time for legislation is now. Only through a legislated time limit on detention can the current arbitrary indefinite detention system be brought under control.  

Policy promises made by successive governments have failed. “In May 2005, Petro Georgiou undertook to introduce legislation which would have effectively ended indefinite detention and limited detention to 90 days. It would also have ended the detention of families and children by law. Unfortunately this was scuttled by the Howard government which watered down the reforms from legislation to unenforceable policy. Senator Chris Evans also tried with the New Values in Detention in July 2008 which never made it into law. Seven years later we are facing a crisis situation. The evidence before us now is a system in crisis with seven deaths in eighteen months, people in dire distress, ‘widespread’ mental illness and a culture of neglect and denial”, says Pamela Curr of the ASRC. 

The Government cannot ignore the overwhelming and unequivocal support for legislative changes outlined in the report from agencies including, but not limited to, the UNHCR, Gilbert & Tobin Centre for Public Law, Law Council of Australia, Labor for Refugees (Vic), Forum of Australian Services for Survivors of Torture and Trauma, Migration Institute of Australia, Jesuit Refugee Service Australia, Castan Centre for Human Rights, Refugee Advice and Casework Service NSW, Liberty Victoria, International Detention Coalition, Australian Psychological Society, Uniting Church Australia, Refugee Council of Australia and the International Refugee and Migration Law Project UNSW.

These watered down reforms have proved ineffective in protecting asylum seekers from indefinite long term detention which is the cause of so much damage and harm to their mental and physical health. Ms Curr reinforces – ‘this is why we now need a legislated time limit so that indefinite detention of people seeking asylum ceases once and for all’.

A young man who received a positive refugee and security decision in August 2011 remained in detention for a further 8 months because he was charged with breaking a computer. He was flown from Melbourne to Perth to Christmas Island with guards to face Court. When he got there, charges were dropped. There was no evidence and the guard witness said that he had made a mistake in identifying the man.  He was then flown back to Melbourne where he waited a further 7 weeks for release and was only released last week with no explanation or charges.  This man spent 8 months in detention losing his mind for no reason.  He is not alone.

 The only way to uphold our obligations under the Refugee Convention and ensure detention is a last resort for the shortest time possible is to enshrine these principles in law.

For media comment please call: Pamela Curr on 0417 517 075
Jana Favero on 0438 829 651

-- Pamela Curr Campaign Coordinator Asylum Seeker Resource Centre 12 Batman st West Melbourne 3003 ph 03 9326 6066 / 0417517075 "NO ONE CHOOSES TO BE AN ASYLUM SEEKER"