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The report recommended that in its management of long-term detainees the Department should ensure that children are not held in detention for long periods at Woomera and that processing times for TPVs be reduced. The report of a national inquiry into children in immigration detention , which was scathing in its criticism of the mandatory detention of children. The Inquiry found that:. The Inquiry further found that children in long term immigration detention were at risk of serious psychological harm, and that failure to remove children from detention with their parents constituted cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment.

In July the Inquiry into the circumstances of the immigration detention of Cornelia Rau the Palmer Report reported on the wrongful detention of Ms Rau. On 5 June the Joint Standing Committee on Migration was asked to conduct an inquiry into immigration detention at a time when there were very few unauthorised boat arrivals—only three boats arrived in —08 and there were only people in immigration detention in Australia on 6 June The presumption of detention that defined the policy of the previous Government has shifted to an assumption of release following minimum checks.

The onus will be on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to demonstrate that detention is necessary. This Committee welcomes the announcement of these values and the commitment of the current Australian Government to a fairer and more humane system for asylum seekers and others who are detained in immigration custody Hopefully this will be not just a new beginning for people held in detention, but for Australian society in determining the detention time, nature and treatment of those who come to our shores.

However, the third report published after an increase in the arrival of people by boat noted that there were still serious concerns regarding the well-being of detainees both on the mainland and on Christmas Island:. The Committee acknowledges that the Australian Government has made positive steps to introduce more appropriate and humane accommodation and facilities through immigration residential housing and immigration transit accommodation.

However, the standard of the accommodation and facilities provided at immigration detention centres was of a serious concern, particularly Stage 1 at Villawood and the Perth immigration detention centre. The primary concern of immigration authorities should be one of care for the well-being of detainees. After the Joint Standing Committee on Migration completed its inquiry into immigration detention the debate intensified due to the increase in the arrival of asylum seekers by boat and the corresponding rise in the number of immigration detainees on Christmas Island and in onshore detention centres.

These have included six deaths in detention five of which appear to have been the result of suicide , suicide attempts, serious self-harm incidents including lip-sewing, riots, protests, fires, break-outs and the use of force against people in detention on Christmas Island by the Australian Federal Police. These incidents have occurred in the context of a detention network that is under serious strain due to a number of factors, but most importantly because thousands of people are being held in detention facilities for long periods of time. As of 11 March there were people, including children, in immigration detention in Australia— on the mainland and on Christmas Island.

More than half of those people had been detained for longer than six months, and more than people had been detained for longer than a year.

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In June , a parliamentary inquiry into the detention network was established. The inquiry was initially proposed by the Opposition to draw attention to increasing levels of unrest and outbreaks of violence in detention centres. Following some negotiation concerning its terms of reference, the motion to establish the inquiry was passed with the support of both the Greens and the Government. In the AHRC published another highly critical report, Immigration detention on Christmas Island , reiterating concerns outlined in previous reports.

Since the s the detention of asylum seekers in often remote locations has received a great deal of public attention. In particular, the duration and conditions of their detention have been controversial issues that have plagued successive governments beginning in the early s when there were several hunger strikes, rooftop demonstrations and suicide attempts at Villawood and Port Hedland.

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The issue of providing additional and appropriate accommodation to avoid overcrowding and a deterioration of conditions was a significant challenge for the Howard Government with the surge in boat arrivals in the late s and is proving to be the case again for the Labor Government following a surge in arrivals since —both governments have responded by making provisions for additional accommodation.

For the Howard Government, the conditions in detention centres, prolonged detention and the physical and psychological effects on detainees on Nauru and in onshore detention facilities, particularly Woomera, attracted a great deal of criticism. In the Howard Government funded researchers at the University of Wollongong to study the long-term effects of immigration detention on those detained.

Published in , the study showed that asylum seekers suffered more serious physical and mental health problems than those detained for a shorter length of time and for different reasons such as visa overstayers waiting to depart the country. Refugee advocates and other stakeholders have also been critical of the mandatory detention regime that has continued under the Rudd and Gillard Governments. Since , overcrowding has placed extreme pressure on infrastructure and the detention network generally and DIAC has struggled to adequately house the various different groups of detainees.

On 29 July , the then Commonwealth Ombudsman announced that his office would initiate an investigation into suicide and self-harm in Australian immigration detention facilities in response to growing concerns about the impact of long-term detention on the ongoing mental health of detainees.

On 29 November , the Government released an independent report the Hawke report commissioned by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship to review incidents of unrest at the Christmas Island and Villawood detention centres earlier in In February , the Australian National Audit Office ANAO released its audit report on the management of detention centres, Individual management services provided to people in immigration detention.

Immigration detention is one of the most complex, controversial and debated areas of government policy. Over the past three years, the number of people in immigration detention has increased significantly.


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Over the same period, the total number of immigration detention facilities in Australia and on Christmas Island increased from nine to 19…. Managing the changes to the immigration program, including policy changes and the rise in the number of irregular maritime arrivals, has been challenging for DIAC and the service providers. Since mandatory detention was first introduced there have been specific concerns expressed over the duration of detention experienced by many asylum seekers. As early as , the Joint Standing Committee on Migration noted that:.

The long term detention of certain unauthorised border arrivals has generated widespread community concern. While the Committee recognises that various factors have contributed to the length of detention which has been endured by those unauthorised arrivals who have landed in Australia since November , there is broad agreement that the long term detention of asylum seekers is inappropriate and unacceptable.

As noted previously, then Minister, Gerry Hand, explained on the introduction of mandatory detention in that the Government did not intend to detain people indefinitely and, initially, a time limit was given:. Australia will, of course, continue to honour its statutory and international obligations as it always has done. Any claims made by these people will be fully and fairly considered under the available processes, and any persons found to qualify for Australia's protection will be allowed to enter. Until the process is complete, however, Australia cannot afford to allow unauthorised boat arrivals to simply move into the community.

The Government has no wish to keep people in custody indefinitely and I could not expect the Parliament to support such a suggestion. Honourable members will note that the amendment calls for custody for a limited period. The period provided for in the amendment is days—this translates into nine months. However, the day 9 month time limit was subsequently removed by the Migration Reform Act and, with indefinite detention permitted under Australian law, many instances of prolonged detention have occurred over the years.

Those detained for overstaying their visa or awaiting removal following a visa cancellation are typically detained for only a short period—asylum seekers on the other hand are often detained for several months, in some cases years. In the average length of stay in immigration detention was With the rapid increase of asylum seekers arriving by boat in —, the rate of processing slowed again and by the end of December , of the people in detention, 18 per cent had already been detained for a year or more. In recent times the duration of detention has again become an issue of concern.

When the surge in boat arrivals began in late , asylum applicants were initially processed and released from detention relatively quickly. However, as more and more people arrived processing times began to increase and the period of time people were spending in detention began to drag out once again. The situation was exacerbated by the freeze on processing for applicants from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan which was imposed by the Rudd Government in April So, it would seem that many asylum seekers in detention continued to face periods of lengthy detention as they did during the Howard Government.

The number of boat arrivals who spent more than 12 months in detention increased significantly with the subsequent strain on the detention network adding to processing delays. As mentioned previously, long periods spent in detention contributed to high levels of unrest in detention facilities under the Howard Government and unrest and security incidents have escalated in mainland detention centres and on Christmas Island under the Gillard Government.

A number of stakeholders, including the Refugee Council of Australia, have expressed significant concerns over the levels of unrest in response to lengthy detention periods and the effects it may have on detainees. Over 30 key health and mental health organisations and mental health advocates are demanding the Government urgently review the standards of mental health care in all immigration detention centres.

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This issue is urgent and action needs to be taken now It is clear that conditions inside detention centres are unacceptable. Children are especially vulnerable. The mental health crisis in the immigration detention system is rapidly worsening and these conditions cannot be allowed to continue.

As noted previously, the proportion of detainees in detention for more than twelve months has dropped under the Gillard Government 8. It is also the one area which has seen a significant shift in policy in response to sustained criticism by refugee advocates, human rights groups and government backbenchers.


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  • The detention of children has also proved to be a contentious issue for the Labor Government. The number of children being held in detention rose steadily, attracting vocal criticism from refugee advocates and human rights groups. In response to growing pressure by interest groups and overcrowding in detention centres generally, the Immigration Minister announced in October that children would be progressively moved out of detention facilities into community-based accommodation by June As at 31 July , there were children aged under 18 years in immigration detention— were detained in the community under residence determinations, were in alternative places of detention, 45 were in immigration residential housing and 52 were in immigration transit accommodation.

    No children are detained in an immigration detention centre. An increasing number of children are living in the community under a residence determination community detention since the Government's announcement on 18 October The number of children in immigration detention has also been decreasing. As at 31 December , there were children aged under 18 years in immigration detention facilities and alternative places of detention.

    The increase in the number of children in detention facilities for December is due to a rapid increase in irregular maritime arrivals during October and November The majority of children in facilities-based detention have been in detention for less than two months. No children are detained in immigration detention centres. Since mandatory detention was introduced in , many have questioned the different treatment afforded asylum seekers who arrive unauthorised by boat to other onshore asylum applicants and made suggestions for reform. Although the latest legislation is intended as an interim measure, it has added to the complexity of the border arrangements.

    There are a confusing array of provisions focused not so much on the status of the person as their mode of arrival in Australia.

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    Since then, a number of authoritative researchers and key stakeholders such as those referenced below have argued that mandatory detention discriminates against boat arrivals and in addition is unnecessary, costly, harmful and counter-productive—arguments include:. These detrimental effects mean that it may take much longer for those concerned to recover and begin to contribute to Australian society; and it reflects unfavourably on Australian refugee policy both nationally and internationally.

    There is no empirical evidence that the threat of being detained deters irregular migration or discourages people from seeking asylum. Detention fails to impact on the choice of destination country and does not reduce numbers of irregular arrivals. Studies have shown asylum seekers and irregular migrants either are not aware of detention policy or its impact in the country of destination; may see it as an inevitable part of the journey; and do not convey the deterrence message to other back to those in country of origin.

    The consequences for the cognitive and emotional development of children may be lifelong and.

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    On the contrary, asylum seekers and irregular migrants in the community comply and cooperate if they are able to meet their basic needs, have been through a fair and informed process and are supported to achieve sustainable long-term solutions while awaiting a decision on their case. Individuals awaiting a decision on their case are a low absconding risk, and in transit contexts individuals appear less likely to abscond, if they are not at risk of detention and refoulement, and remain hopeful on future prospects. All of these arguments are contentious and ignite passionate debate in the public arena.

    Recent research by Latrobe University recommended that detention should only be used in exceptional cases and that by implementing the following five steps unnecessary detention could be avoided:. It is important to acknowledge that over the years both the Coalition and the Labor governments have made efforts to make community detention and other alternative accommodation options available for more vulnerable detainees, particularly children and their families.

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    In the Howard Government introduced alternative accommodation arrangements such as the residential housing projects in Port Augusta and Port Pirie. In , the Government introduced several measures, including a commitment to moving families and children into community detention. The Community Care Pilot was subsequently introduced which allowed families and certain other detainees with complex needs to be released into the community with support from NGOs funded by the Government. Since the community status resolution approach was expanded nationally in , the proportion of onshore compliance clients managed in the community instead of detention has increased.

    Since then many asylum seekers have been transferred into community detention there were accommodated under these arrangements in — As mentioned earlier, in a significant announcement on 13 October , the Gillard Government stated that it in addition to the expanded use of community detention it would extend the practice of issuing bridging visas to onshore asylum seekers air arrivals to include some of those who have arrived irregularly by boat.

    UNHCR and non-governmental advocacy groups should continue to focus attention on the fact that basic legal safeguards of detention are not observed in many situations and that conditions of detention within many immigration detention centres, prisons and airport transit zones around the world fall below internationally acceptable standards. Many other refugee advocates in Australia also encourage the use of detention alternatives and have indicated their support for the community based options introduced by the Australian Government. Unauthorised boat arrivals. Unauthorised air arrivals.

    Unaccompanied minors. People held in community detention. People refused entry to Australia at international airports and seaports are also detained there capacity about It was adapted into a secure IDC in It has three accommodation compounds, Blaxland, Hughes and Fowler capacity about The Perth IDC mainly caters for people who have over-stayed their visa or had their visa cancelled because they failed to comply with their visa conditions.

    People refused entry to Australia at international airports and seaports are also detained there, and people with a criminal conviction awaiting removal to another country.

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