Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Compensation for wrongful detentions

The Federal Government may compensate as many as 191 people for wrongfully holding them in immigration detention centres, a parliamentary hearing was told on Tuesday.

A Government ombudsman last year reported that 247 Australian citizens, permanent residents and legal visa holders were incorrectly detained by the Immigration Department between 1993 and 2007.

The inquiry was sparked by the illegal detention of mentally ill Australian resident Cornelia Rau for more than 10 months in 2004 and 2005 and the wrongful deportation of Australian citizen Vivian Solon to the Philippines.

The chief lawyer for the department, Robyn Bicket, said the department had now reviewed all the cases.

"Currently we are at 191 cases [where] we believe there is risk of legal liability for compensation and 56 cases where we believe there is no compensatable risk involved," she told a Senate estimates hearing.

Ms Bicket said that the department had offered compensation in 40 cases and settlements had been reached in 17 instances.

The Howard government adopted a controversial policy towards asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, making immigration detention mandatory even for children.


Detention centre staff 'cracked'
More than 60 former staff at Australian immigration detention centres have reported long-term mental health problems associated with the stress of the job.

UN Torture Committee Blasts Australia
In its report on Australia, the Torture Committee was critical of Australia's prisons, counter-terrorism laws, mandatory immigration detention and of the way Australian officials have ignored torture and mistreatment overseas in places like Abu Ghraib.

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