Report commissions new Immigration Policy

Date: Feb 02, 2009
Document Type: Newsletter

The Human Rights Commission slammed the Government's immigration detention policy last week, following the release of the Commission's 2008 immigration detention report.

The report criticises the current practice of detaining children, the length of detainment of all asylum seekers, and the decrepit state of accommodation centres.

Human Rights Commissioner, Graeme Innes, urged the Government to "translate its 'new directions' for Australia's immigration detention system into policy, practice and legislative change as soon as possible".

The report's major recommendations include:

  • Minimum standards for conditions and treatment of persons in immigration detention

This should be codified in legislation, based on relevant international human rights standards.

  • Amendments to the Migration Act

Amendments should include that immigration detention is an exception, not the norm, and the decision to detain a person is subject to prompt review by a court. Australia's mandatory detention law should be repealed. Detention, where necessary, should be reasonable and be a proportionate means of achieving at least one of the aims outlined in international law. These limited grounds for detention should be clearly prescribed in the Migration Act. It must include periodic independent reviews of the ongoing need to detain a person, and a maximum time limit for detention.

  • Current alternatives to immigration detention centres

These include immigration residential housing, immigration transit accommodation, and community detention.

  • The recommendations of the national inquiry into children in immigration detention should be implemented by the Government

Australia's immigration laws must comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the key principle that the detention of a child should only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.

Mr Innes voiced concerns 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 Commission also wanted to ensure fair treatment for detainees whose visas have been cancelled under the character provisions (s 51) of the Migration Act.

An Immigration Department spokesman said the Government was already upgrading some centres, and was working towards implementing some of the Commission's concerns.

The Commission's 2008 Immigration detention report covers inspections of the immigration detention facilities around Australia between June and September 2008.

The Commission have conducted annual visits to immigration detention facilities for the past three years to monitor conditions, with the aim of ensuring they meet internationally recognised human rights standards.

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