Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Year in detention 'excessive'

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

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.

Kids in Detention

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.


Villawood detainees go on hunger strike
More than 100 detainees at Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre are on a hunger strike.

Detainees climb Villawood roof in deportation protest
The Department of Immigration has confirmed two Chinese nationals have climbed on to the roof of Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre.

Visas offered to 31 in long detention

The federal government is offering visas to 31 people who have been in immigration detention for more than two years.

Georgiou repeats call to scrap citizenship test
Liberal backbencher Petro Georgiou says Australia's controversial new citizenship test should not just be reviewed - it should be scrapped altogether. Immigration Minister Chris Evans says he has no plans to abolish the Howard Government-era test, but he is open to making improvements.

Immigration officials should face action
A former human rights commissioner says Immigration Department officials who breached human rights under the Howard government need to face disciplinary action.

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.

Doctor urges mandatory detention inquiry

A psychiatrist who has treated immigration detainees says former government ministers should be called to account for the policy of mandatory detention.

Refugees highest level in history: UN

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says there are more displaced people in the world than at any time in history, with the bulk of them coming from Iraq and Afghanistan.

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