The Australian Greens acknowledge the extensive work of the Committee in this inquiry, and thank everyone who gave evidence at the public hearing, and/or made a public written submission.
This dissenting report will raise many significant and substantive concerns with the bill before this inquiry, the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2020 (the Bill).
A similar bill, the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017 (the 2017 Bill) was introduced on 13 September 2017. This committee inquired into the 2017 Bill, with its report – including a dissenting report from the Australian Greens recommending the 2017 Bill be opposed by the Senate – tabled on 13 October 2017. The 2017 Bill lapsed at the end of the previous parliament.
As noted by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) in their submission to this inquiry, the Bill is largely:
the Government’s ‘work around’ of the Full Federal Court decision in ARJ17 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection in 2018, which found that existing statutory powers [under the Migration Act 1958] did not give the Secretary power to impose a policy to confiscate detainees’ phones, and that even if it did, the exercise of such powers must be ‘proportionate’ to the risk and take into account ‘considerations peculiar to individual detention centres and considerations personal to individual detainees'.
In their joint submission to this inquiry, the Department of Home Affairs (the Department) and the Australian Border Force declared the Bill will:
clarify the intended operation of the search and seizure provisions, following the Full Federal Court decision in ARJ17 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection  FCAFC 98.
Immigration detention centres
As noted by numerous witnesses and/or submitters to this inquiry, people being held in Australia’s immigration detention facilities, including alternative places of detention (APODs), are being detained for administrative, not punitive purposes. This means, as submitted by the Law Council of Australia (Law Council), that a person’s detention 'is not triggered by criminal offending or suspicion'.
Many detainees in Australia’s immigration detention system are people who have, as submitted by Refugee Legal, 'been transferred there only after completing their term of imprisonment, of the duration determined to be appropriate by the criminal justice system'.
However, as submitted by the Refugee Council:
the increased security and the enforcement-centred approach of the Australian Border Force (ABF) to the management of immigration detention facilities have resulted in a highly securitised detention system.
As submitted by the ASRC, this has led to immigration detention facilities having:
all, if not more, of the security characteristics and restrictions placed upon detainees and visitors found in regular prisons, but without the same level of accountability … [with] Alternative Places of Immigration Detention (APODs) [being] subject to even less accountability and control.
According to the Department’s most recent immigration detention statistics (May 2020), there were 1,458 people in immigration detention facilities, under the following categories:
675 s 501 visa cancellations;
505 asylum seekers and refugees who arrived by boat; and
278 categorised as ‘other’ (visa overstays, non-immigration cleared seaport and air arrivals, and other visa cancellations).
People being detained in immigration detention centres are not being, and should not be, held for punitive purposes. Many people in detention have never been charged or convicted of a criminal activity. This is why, as submitted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR):
Detention should only apply when it pursues a legitimate purpose (such as to carry out initial identity and security checks in cases where identity is undetermined or in dispute, or there are indications of security risks) and when it has been determined to be both necessary and proportionate in each individual case.
People who arrived by boat to seek asylum in Australia account for just over a third of all people held in immigration detention.
The UNHCR noted in its submission that:
Detention for the sole reason that the person is seeking asylum is not lawful under international law. Illegal entry or stay of asylum-seekers does not give the State an automatic power to detain or to otherwise restrict freedom of movement.
This inconsistency with international law is one of the reasons the Australian Greens have long opposed Australia’s legislative and policy framework that allows for arbitrary and indefinite detention of people seeking asylum, stateless persons, and refugees.
As submitted by the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC):
Immigration detention is for the administrative purpose of holding a person temporarily until they are granted a visa or depart Australia. It cannot be punitive in nature … there is no reason for detention centre operators and private contractors to assume the role of law enforcement.
People detained under section 501
As submitted by the Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission):
A key rationale for the measures proposed in the Bill is that people whose visas have been cancelled under s 501 of the Migration Act are, as a group, likely to pose a significant risk to facility security and the safety of others.
Since the enactment of the Migration Amendment (Character and General Visa Cancellation) Act 2014 which, as submitted by the ASRC, 'dramatically lowered the threshold for visa cancellation on character grounds and removed key legal protections from the process', immigration detention facilities are increasingly being used to detain people who have had visas refused or cancelled under s 501 of the Migration Act 1958 (Migration Act). This cohort of people currently accounts for around 46 per cent of all people held in immigration detention centres.
Although the Commission noted the changing composition of people in immigration detention, specifically the increase of people detained under s 501, has created cultural and operational challenges in immigration detention facilities, it also submitted:
The grounds on which a person’s visa can be cancelled under s 501 are very broad and include circumstances where the person has not been convicted or even accused of criminal activity.
In its submission, the ASRC said it has:
clients whose protection visas were cancelled under s 501 just on the basis of criminal charges, which were subsequently dropped or where our client was later acquitted of the offence. Others have been convicted of offences but never served a day in prison because they received non-custodial sentences for less serious crimes and were considered no or low risk to the community.
It’s also worth noting, as the Commission has in various submissions to inquiries and a 2013 background paper, that the 46 per cent of people in detention under s 501:
are often long-term permanent residents who moved to Australia as a child and have lived here for many years prior to their visa cancellation.
Risk assessments are conducted on all people being held in Australia’s immigration detention system. The two largest cohorts are people who have had their visas cancelled under s 501, and people seeking asylum who arrived by boat.
A persistent argument for the Bill is that people who have had their visas cancelled under s 501 of the Migration Act pose an increased and significant risk to the immigration detention system.
However, as discussed above, anyone that has been detained under s 501 for criminal convictions will have completed their court-imposed sentence – if they had one – and are now in immigration detention because they no longer hold a valid visa.
Regarding asylum seekers and refugees who arrived by boat, which is the second largest cohort in immigration detention, the ASRC submitted:
Every person in this group of transferees was pre-screened for character or security issues before they were allowed to enter Australia.
According to a 2019 report by the Commission on risk management in immigration detention:
many people in immigration detention may have received risk assessments that do not accurately reflect any objective risk they may pose. In particular, there appears to be considerable variation in the severity of the risk presented by people in the ‘high risk’ category.
As summarised by the HRLC in a written response to Department and Serco evidence provided to the committee for this inquiry, the 2019 Commission report also found that:
Serco’s risk assessment algorithm was flawed – it did not take into account all relevant information, and was disproportionately influenced by prior offending (including non-violent offending) and minor infractions like swearing. Positive behaviour in detention did not lead to a downgrading of risk level, meaning people were stuck with ‘high risk’ ratings despite ongoing good behaviour … [meaning] many people may have risk ratings that do not accurately reflect their objective level of risk.
The Commission also noted in its submission that is has raised numerous concerns regarding the way individual risk assessments are currently carried out by the Department, and provided detailed recommendations on how to improve the process.
Many expert submitters and witnesses to this inquiry have argued new powers provided by the Bill are unnecessary, and unwarranted.
Between Serco, the Department, and police, there are existing and wide-ranging powers to deal with all illegal activities the Bill purports to address. These powers exist under Commonwealth, state, and territory legislation, including immigration, privacy, and criminal acts – many of which are referenced in Serco’s Policy and Procedure Manual and the Department’s Detention Services Manual.
As submitted by the Law Council, the Migration Act:
already permits authorised officers, without a warrant, to search, screen and strip search detainees, in order to find out if there is hidden on the person, or in their clothing or possessions, a weapon or escape aid (including a thing capable of being used as a weapon or escape aid). The use of such force as is reasonably necessary to conduct these searches, screening procedures or strip searches is already permitted, as is the seizure of these items.
Moreover, searches of property and premises by the Department and Serco can also be conducted under a common law duty of care to maintain the safety and wellbeing of detainees and others in immigration detention facilities. These common law powers were acknowledged by the Department in the following evidence provided to the Committee:
Currently in relation to common areas in other parts of the detention centre, any search and seizure powers are really based on our common law responsibilities as the occupier and owner and our duty of care.
These powers under the common law duty of care are regularly being exercised. As submitted by the Refugee Council:
we know that people in detention and their rooms are being frequently and extensively searched at different hours of the day…We also know that detention visitors are also routinely searched and also undergo drug tests.
The Department’s Detention Services Manual also acknowledges various police powers under Commonwealth, state, and territory laws prohibiting criminal activity, including in immigration detention facilities. Many expert submitters and witnesses to this inquiry have argued that suspected criminal activity is best and most appropriately dealt with by police, as they have appropriate training, oversight, accountability, and legal limitations such as reasonable suspicion and search warrant procedures. As submitted by Human Rights Watch:
While it is appropriate for police to conduct searches in immigration detention facilities, there are insufficient safeguards and oversight mechanisms for Australian Border Force officers and private security contractors to have those powers.
As summarised by the Government, the Bill:
Amends the Migration Act 1958 to: enable the minister to determine, by legislative instrument, prohibited things in relation to immigration detention facilities and detainees; enable authorised officers and assistants to search Commonwealth immigration detention facilities without a warrant; strengthen the search and seizure and screening powers of authorised officers; and enable the minister to issue binding written directions to authorised officers in relation to the exercise of their seizure powers.
Many expert submitters and witnesses to this inquiry have raised concerns regarding the low bars set for search and seizure powers provided for by the Bill. As submitted by the UNHCR, the Bill:
includes a new statutory power to search facilities operated by or on behalf of the Commonwealth, in order to enforce both the existing and proposed prohibitions. Such a search could include accommodation areas, administrative areas, common areas, detainees’ rooms, detainees’ personal effects, medical examination areas and storage areas. Officers could also make use of detector dogs to conduct searches. Notably, a search may be conducted of a facility whether or not the authorised officer has any suspicion that there is a prohibited thing, a weapon or escape aid at the facility.
Not only are these powers broad, they are also excessive, and without limitation. As submitted by the HRLC:
There is no guidance in the Bill regarding how these decisions are to be made or limitations on when authorised officers should use their new powers. This means that Home Affairs officers, ABF officers, Serco staff and detention health services staff will be able to search for and seize prohibited things without any limitations on when they do so … It is unreasonable and unsafe to give authorised officers - which includes staff of private contractors such as Serco who operate immigration detention centres - these excessively broad and unchecked powers.
Furthermore, these excessively broad and unchecked powers exceed those provided to police. As submitted by the National Justice Project, which represented the applicant in ARJ17 v Minister for Immigration & Border Protection:
Granting government employees and contractors the power to strip search such individuals without having to show any reason to justify the search invites abuses of power and will cause unnecessary distress to individuals subjected to these searched. These powers are significantly broader than those granted to police and prison officers, who have higher levels of training and accountability.
There are also fears held for how these arbitrary and unfettered powers will affect vulnerable communities in immigration detention. As submitted by the UNHCR:
Heavily securitized detention environments coupled with enhanced search and seizure powers, in particular those involving strip searches and the use of detector dogs are likely to have significantly adverse consequences for such psychologically vulnerable persons in detention.
The Bill provides for blanket bans on items such as mobile phones in all immigration detention centres, including APODS, and anywhere else a detainee is held (e.g. a hospital). A blanket ban on mobile phones will have significantly adverse consequences for people in immigration detention, particularly those who are psychologically vulnerable. In a written response to Department and Serco evidence provided to the committee, the HRLC noted:
The Government’s previous actions suggest blanket bans of mobile phones will almost certainly be imposed on groups of people … the legislation and explanatory memorandum specifically state that mobile phones may be a prohibited item.
This has been confirmed by the Acting Minister for Immigration, the Hon Mr Tudge MP, who said in his second reading speech for the Bill:
Mobile phones and internet-capable devices present an unacceptable risk … we are proposing to allow the minister to direct officers to seize mobile phones from certain categories of people, while providing officers with the discretion to search for and seize mobile phones in other circumstances.
The Government has been working to legislate prohibiting all persons held in immigration detention from having mobile phones or SIM cards since the full court, in ARJ17 v Minister for Immigration & Border Protection, found the Department’s policy to implement such a blanket ban in its Detention Services Manual was, under current legislation, legally invalid. The Bill, as it stands, would allow the Minister to legally reintroduce a blanket ban on mobile phones. And on almost any other item because, as submitted by the Commission:
the proposed provisions set a relatively low threshold for determining prohibited items, in that the Minister only need be satisfied that the thing ‘might’ pose a risk to safety or security. The Minister need not be satisfied that the thing is likely to present a risk, let alone that the thing is likely to present a risk in any particular circumstances that relate to a detention facility or group of people in detention.
As noted by the HRLC, items such as mobile phones are used by most people held in detention for entirely ordinary and legitimate purposes. If a blanket ban were to be implemented on this entirely ordinary and legitimate item, then it stands to reason that blanket bans could also be implemented against any other ordinary and legitimate item. As submitted by the HRLC:
In addition to items such as mobile phones, this could extend to innocuous, everyday objects like pens and paper, if the Minister wished to control peaceful demonstrations in detention.
This was echoed by the Commission in their submission, which warned:
In practice, there is an almost limitless number of things that might be a risk to health, safety, security or order.
Blanket bans are neither a reasonable nor proportionate response to any risk that might exist regarding an item, as a whole community is punished for isolated or individual risks. As submitted by the Commission:
the proposed power for the Minister to declare items prohibited in immigration detention facilities may lead to restrictions on the possession of items in circumstances where they do not present a significant risk to safety and security in all cases … Serious problems involving mobile phone use appear to be exceptional rather than commonplace, and so any response to those problems should be proportionate to the nature and prevalence of these problems, especially given the significant negative impact of removing an individual’s mobile phone.
Regarding the coercive search and seizure powers provided for in the Bill, the Law Council submitted:
[these] powers represent a significant incursion on individual rights and freedoms. This is also reflected in the need for police to seek a search warrant based on a ‘reasonable suspicion’ threshold.
Not only are the powers provided by the Bill unnecessary: they are unjustified.
Numerous expert submitters to this inquiry have argued that the powers provided by the Bill are unjustified, and premised on assertions made without any evidence to back them – despite evidence having been requested by expert witnesses for the inquiry into the 2017 Bill of the same name tabled in the previous parliament.
Having raised these questions at the inquiry into the 2017 Bill, the Law council of Australia again raised the following questions and concerns at the public hearing for the Bill:
We're here, two years later, and there is no more data than we had in 2018 ... Firstly, where is the data to show the prevalence of the problem? Secondly, where is the data to show that existing law enforcement agencies cannot address these matters? It's quite extraordinary that, after three years, the department has not provided any data to this committee, to the parliament, or to bodies such as ours.
Subsequent to the hearing and in response to evidence provided by the Department and Serco, the HLRC wrote:
The Department [while giving evidence to the Committee] did not elaborate on whether or how these common law powers are insufficient … The Government has not explained how working with police is difficult or unsuccessful.
This concern was echoed by many other expert submitters and witnesses, including the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law (the Kaldor Centre). It submitted:
The Explanatory Memorandum … does not provide any evidence of specific risks that cannot be managed under existing arrangements … [and] a number of the generalised statements about the risks in detention do not align with publicly available evidence.
Concerns have not only been raised about the legitimacy and necessity of provisions within the Bill, but also the effectiveness of them. In their submission to this inquiry, the Refugee Council cited a 2019 report by the WA Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services on the use of strip searches in Western Australian prisons. The report found the use of strip searches to be ineffective and harmful.
In that report, the Inspector of the Custodial Services found it was:
naïve to think [strip searching] ‘works’ … There was no relationship between the volume of strip searches and the number of positive drug tests of prisoners. Nor was there any increase in contraband finds, using other processes, when strip searching stopped at certain facilities. These findings are consistent with research in other countries.
According to this report, and the national and international data that informed it, strip searching is not only harmful: it is ineffective, and not intelligence-led.
Lack of oversight
Many expert submitters and witnesses to this inquiry have raised concerns regarding the lack of oversight and accountability provided for in the Bill. According to numerous submissions, oversight and accountability is lacking at all levels of decision-making.
The Kaldor Centre submitted:
Parliamentary oversight of these proposed powers is inadequate. While a legislative instrument declaring one or more items to be ‘prohibited things’ is an instrument disallowable by the Senate, the efficacy of this accountability mechanism is limited by the fact that the Senate can only disallow the instrument in full … Ministerial directions that prescribe how search and seizure powers must actually be administered in practice are not disallowable.
Regarding the lack of operational oversight, which could lead to abuses of power, the Refugee Council submitted:
there are no minimum statutory standards or proper legal framework for standards in immigration detention, these provisions create even more unchecked power in detention facilities. We know that even now holding the officers accountable is extremely challenging. We have been told, repeatedly, that people in detention and detention visitors find the complaint mechanism ineffective. Creating more unaccountable power can lead to both abuse of power and less accountability.
There is also no accountability over how powers are delegated by authorised officers to “assistants”. As submitted by the Law Council:
The Bill provides no parameters for who the assistants can be; how they are appointed or for how long; what training they receive; and what background checks are carried out … such a lackadaisical approach … could leave the government open to litigation.
This lack of oversight can lead to other perverse outcomes, such as policies and/or practices that discriminate against particular categories of people being held in immigration detention. As submitted by the Law Council:
the provisions as they are currently drafted may operate to enforce prohibitions differently for different cohorts on an arbitrary or even discriminatory basis … [because] the Minister has a broad discretionary power to decide how to define a class of persons.
Mobile devices which are internet, social media, and video-conference capable provide vital connectivity for people being held in detention. This contributes to the self-empowerment and mental health of individuals, and good order of immigration detention facilities. As submitted by the Commission:
most of the people interviewed … during inspections report that they rely on their mobile phone (mostly smartphones) as their primary method of communication with family, friends and legal representatives.
Without mobile phones, as submitted by the HRLC, people held in immigration detention will have:
no conveniently accessible means of video calling their children, keeping up with the news, or staving off boredom with movies, novels or games of their choice or in their own language.
The Government has argued that if a blanket ban prohibiting mobile phones is implemented, alternative facilities and technologies will be provided for detainees. However, as argued by many expert submitters and witnesses to this inquiry, these alternatives will not provide equivalent functionality. As submitted by the HRLC:
alternative communication methods available in detention centres are insufficient and incomparable to mobile phones.
This concern was shared by the Commission, which submitted:
While all immigration detention facilities provide access to computers and landline phones … lack of privacy; slow internet connection on desktop computers; and poor maintenance of communication facilities … Most computers in immigration detention facilities do not have a video function … [and while] landline phones are available in most common areas (including in compounds) … they offer limited privacy … [and] the cost of calls … [are] significantly higher.
Social media provides people held in immigration detention the capacity to flexibly communicate with friends, families, support networks, and broader communities.
An argument frequently made in calling for powers to prohibit mobile phones in immigration detention facilities, perhaps most recently by Minister Tudge in his second reading speech for the Bill, is that mobile phones have been used by detainees:
to intimidate and threaten the safety and welfare of staff. Staff have been filmed and photographed by detainees, with this material then transmitted to associates outside of detention facilities via social media. This is causing significant fear and stress for staff and their families.
However, as submitted by the Law Council:
under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), it is already an offence, punishable by up to three years imprisonment, for a person to use a carriage service in a way that reasonable persons would regard as being, in all the circumstances, menacing, harassing or offensive.
Access to legal representation
Another important and principal use of mobile phones by people held in immigration detention is access to legal representation. As submitted by the ASRC:
in recent years all physical visits to detention centres, including professional visits, have become much more cumbersome and difficult to obtain approval for, and to arrange. In this context of isolating detainees from visitors, there is now much greater reliance by lawyers and others on contacting detainees’ via their personal phones.
This concern was shared by the Law Council in their submission, which said the Bill’s:
explicit focus on mobile phones, has the potential to make access to legal representation and support significantly more difficult, and will unjustifiably exacerbate what is already a challenging process that must operate within strict procedural time limitations … mobile phones … are critical to ensuring that the detainee is aware of their right to legal advice in the first place – a right which is not made sufficiently clear.
Concerns regarding the importance of timely legal representation were also raised by the Refugee Council, which submitted:
There have been instances when mobile phones helped alert the lawyers to an imminent removal and prevented potential refoulement.
Access to families and support networks
Another common and crucial use of mobile phones by people held in immigration detention is access to families and support networks. This is especially critical now, while visitation to immigration detentions facilities has been banned due to COVID-19 risks. As submitted by the ASRC, detainees:
can use audio or video calls, the latter being especially important to those detainees with young children. They can talk to their families and others as often as they like and without having to queue up or take their turn with the pressure of others waiting to use the phone within earshot. Those with relatives overseas, can make international calls at low cost. Detention centre landlines, even if there were enough, are no substitute for the level of access, privacy, low cost and quality of communication and relationships that detainees are able to maintain when they have access to their personal mobile phones.
Good order in immigration detention
Although government, the Department, and Serco have all argued that the powers and provisions within the Bill will improve the “safety and security of the immigration detention environment”, it appears little consideration or acknowledgment has been given, particularly regarding mobile phones, to the potential impacts to good order that can result from the Bill. This has, however, been recognised by many expert submitters and witnesses to this inquiry. As submitted by the Refugee Council:
[We] and many other organisations have raised concerns about the lack of meaningful programs and activities in immigration detention facilities. The AHRC raised alarm that the boredom, frustration and lack of engagement that arise from lack of meaningful programs and activities can contribute to the tensions within the facilities.
Expanding on this concern, the ASRC submitted:
Some detainees use their phones for expressive and creative purposes: making and recording music and writing; creative writing, testimonial writing, all expressions of human creativity and tools to help counter the boredom and hopelessness of their situations. Unlike prisoners who are provided with a wide array of educational programs, vocational training options, work options and rehabilitation programs, immigration detainees face mindless boredom, day in and out. Phones with internet connectivity are also vital to occupying and entertaining detainees, who typically spend many hours a day with nothing to do, making the time lag and it even more difficult for them to remain motivated, well and hopeful.
Accountability and freedom of political expression
The banning of mobile phones for people being held in immigration detention will also stifle the ability of detainees to engage in political expression and legitimate protest. The government, and Liberal state governments around the country, have long standing and well documented opposition to political protest. Liberal and Liberal National Party (LNP) governments have introduced anti-protest laws federally, and in Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, and Tasmania.
As submitted by the Kaldor Centre, mobile phones have given people in detention an important voice in public debate, but the Bill would:
have the effect of curtailing the ability of immigration detainees to participate in protest activities. It would also prevent detainees from engaging in public discourse in a variety of other ways … [that] would impose a direct burden on detainees’ ability to engage in political communication.
Mobile phones are mostly used by detainees for entirely ordinary and legitimate purposes. This includes raising public awareness of their circumstances, treatment, and conditions. The provisions within the Bill, as submitted by the Law Council, may:
prevent the release of information about immigration detention facilities even where it would be in the public interest for such information to come to light. The lack of transparency or independent oversight over immigration detention facilities has been a consistent concern over many years in Australia.
This concern is particularly timely, given recent events regarding the use of police and correctional officer force both in Australia and abroad. As submitted by the Kaldor Centre:
In contrast to the low incidence of mobile phones being used in a harmful manner, there are numerous examples of mobile phones and internet capable devices being used to document the treatment and conditions of detainees in immigration detention in a way that improves public visibility and, by extension, accountability … [including:] attempts to deport the Biloela family; the alleged use of excessive force in immigration detention by Serco employees; the management of COVID-19 risks in immigration detention.
As recognised by many expert submitters and witnesses to this inquiry, provisions within the Bill will engage numerous human rights.
In its submission, the Commission identified the following human rights conventions as being engaged by the Bill:
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);
the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT);
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR);
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
In its submission, the Kaldor Centre suggested:
A widespread ban on mobile phones in immigration detention may contravene a number of international law obligations. It may also infringe the constitutionally protected implied freedom of political communication, and would be likely to face challenge on this basis.
The Kaldor Centre also warned that:
there are strong arguments that restricting the capacity for such communications would be unconstitutional.
Timing of bill
As indicated earlier in this dissenting report, there have also been concerns raised by expert submitters and witnesses regarding the timing of the Bill: that the Bill was introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, while all personal visits to immigration detention facilities, including by legal representatives, have been banned.
Physically, as submitted by the Kaldor Centre, people held in immigration detention will be adversely affected because:
The measures proposed in the Bill would, by contrast, serve to exacerbate the already high risk of COVID-19 in Australia’s immigration detention facilities, by forcing large numbers of detainees to use a small number of shared phone and computer facilities. As the Visa Cancellations Working Group has noted in its submission to this inquiry, broadening search powers during this time is also likely to lead to an increase in physical contact between staff and detainees that does not adhere to necessary social distancing protocols.
Mentally, as submitted by the ASRC, people held in immigration detention will be adversely affected because:
There has never been a time when access to telephones and other internet-capable devices has proven to be more important than during the community lockdowns necessitated by this pandemic. For those held in immigration detention, who are in constant lockdown, telephones and access to the internet are a ’life-line’, for some, literally so.
The amendments proposed by the Bill are unjustified and unnecessary. They are punitive, disproportionate, and incompatible with Australia's international human rights obligations.
The Bill is a deliberate attempt to prevent or limit contact with the outside world for people in immigration detention. It is also a deliberate attempt to silence legitimate dissent and political expression.
The Bill is irredeemable and cannot be fixed by amendment.
The Australian Greens recommend that the Bill be opposed by the Senate.
Senator Nick McKim
Greens Senator for Tasmania