“We are puzzled that the Minister seems to have pre-empted his Parliamentary Enquiry, but the changes to immigration detention announced today by the Minister for Immigration are a welcome move in the right direction”, according to Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
“In particular that there will now be a prejudice in favour of community processing holds the hope that we are seeing the beginning of the end of the worst abuses of mandatory detention.
“However we remain concerned that there is no proposal for the announced changes to be enshrined in law. Even the detention of children will not be banned by law. Immigration housing such as that at Villawood is still detention.
“Mandatory detention still remains in place. Detention decisions will still be made by the Immigration Department and not be subject to judicial review. Prior to the election, Labor said that it would limit detention to 90 days. If the Minister is serious about reversing the horrors of the Howard years, he will change the law.
“The deep-seated cultural problems in the Immigration Department identified by the Palmer Inquiry were still obvious in the lead up to World Youth Day, when Immigration officers turned away potential asylum seekers and incarcerated two other African asylum seekers in Villawood.
“Retaining Christmas Island for off-shore processing will still exclude asylum seekers from the Australian refugee system. Replacing the Pacific Solution with a slightly better Indian Ocean solution is not good enough. Christmas Island should close permanently and all excised Australian territory returned to the jurisdiction of the Migration Act.
“There remains much unfinished business to establish a humanitarian refugee policy. The adversarial determination process of Refugee Review Tribunal needs to be replaced. There are thousands of refugees, who like Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon, have been damaged by mandatory detention and require more help and compensation. Refugees still suffer under ridiculous detention debts. Bridging visa holders are still denied work rights. There are still asylum seekers in Indonesia towed back by the Australian navy after the Tampa and the Afghans and other wrongfully deported from Nauru.
“The Minister seems to realize that there are still fundamental problems remaining with the refugee process. Rather than piece-meal decisions, we are calling on the Minister to convene a summit of all the refugee advocacy groups, and refugees themselves so the unfinished business can be properly dealt with.”
Refugee Action Coalition media release.
For more information contact: Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713