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Current Situation of Immigration Detainees in Australia

CURRENT SITUATION OF IMMIGRATION DETAINEES IN AUSTRALIA AND IMMIGRATION POLICY AND PRACTICE GENERALLY.
 
"Against a backdrop of renewed violence and evident problems arising in Australia's Immigration Detention Centres it may be timely for all political parties to support an impartial arms length bi partisan parliamentary inquiry into current Immigration policy and the current inmates in the Immigration Detention Centres (IDC's)." In the last few days there has been widespread violence and and alleged arson at various Detention centres. No doubt there are numerous different reasons for this phenomenon.

New initiatives need to be urgently considered to address 1) Immigration Policy generally and; 
 
2) the current position of the the current detainees in the various Immigration Detention Centres.

There can be no doubt that present it is NOT realistic (politically if not for any other reason) to expect any government of the day to open up Australia's borders to unrestricted access and it has to be acknowledged that the Government of the day has a legitimate interest in detecting, dealing with and if necessary apprehending persons who come to be present in Australia without proper formalized permission.

2) THE CURRENT IMMIGRATION DETAINEE POPULATION

It has to be recognized that there is quite a number of detainees who at law are liable to be removed from Australia but for whom the Government has no immediate option available to deport. Palestinians who are unable to be repatriated owing to neighboring countries denial of travel access are at least one example (The El Masri Case in the Federal Court) and Iraqis who cannot be deported to Iraq are another example (EG the Al Abbady family (including young children)who have been in detention since 1999 and cannot be returned to Iraq owing to International sanctions and the lack of willingness of neighboring countries to receive them) .

It may be suggested that URGENT consideration be given to allowing  House Arrest/Home Detention  for such persons on an INTERIM basis with full access to schools, welfare services and organisations where necessary.

It is submitted that Other cases involving unlawful non citizens who are women who have children who are Australian citizens should be dealt with urgently in a similar fashion.

All detained families and unaccompanied minors could also be dealt with similarly. Any one who is certified by independent doctors as mentally ill or at risk should be placed in the custody and care of state welfare authorities asap. There are currently a number of unfortunate individuals at Villawood who obviously fit this description and who have been inmates for some time. In addition a young prostitute not properly diagnosed recently committed suicide at Villawood in front of young children, she having been previously forced to work as a Prostitute by alleged brothel owners as an unlawful non citizen.

Co-operation would need to be gained from Social welfare organisations, churches and State Government agencies to activate the above successfully.

It is also submitted that any unlawful non citizens who have a criminal record in any country or criminal connections be immediately removed to proper Gaols while they await deportation. It may be argued that this should be actively considered to prevent troublemakers disrupting the Detention centre system . For instance in 2001 while the Case Yan Li and ors was before Justice Wilcox in the Federal Court it was disclosed that the Manager of Villawood Detention Centre was using an alleged drug trafficker and a suspect of 2 murders as a an interpreter in dealing with Chinese detainees at Stage one of VIDC.

Other categories of current detainees who have no claim to any political refugee status generally in the broadest sense of the word (NOT as defined by the Refugee Convention) should be considered for removal from Australia asap.

Perhaps consideration should  also be given for urgent  special legislation to allow a bi partisan 4 person parliamentary committee and one retired Judge to immediately start processing and finalizing claims for general refugee status for any long term detainees who have been in the system longer than 3 months as at 31/01/02 with the Government of the day agreeing to be bound by its determinations in each case. Such determinations should not be bound by technical definitions of what is a Refugee as defined in various international conventions.

When ever there is a build up of detainees who are detained more than 3 months the Parliament and the Government of the day should be prepared to institute similar special legislation in the future.

IMMIGRATION POLICY GENERALLY

Arguably the Licensing of Migration Agents is not working ; clients are still being ripped off for large amounts of money, bonds to Immigration are being forfeited because of  their negligence.
 
Arranged marriages flourish in a number of  immigrant communities. (anecdotal evidence indicates this)  Anecdotal evidence suggests that large amounts of money are being paid often to unlicensed middlemen to arrange such marriages. The number of younger women who arrive on short term viasa as students and tourists who end up marrying older men may be indicative anecdotal evidence of this.

* Women as always are being exploited in this trade and all suffer when they end up with children and either end up divorced or the victims of serious domestic violence or worse.

* Immigration Agents fees are arguably very high relative to the services performed.
Immigration Agents typically have no professional indemnity insurance or inadequate insurance thereby continuing to cause large losses to gullible clients. The Licensing of Immigration Agents should arguably be abolished and prohibited and only Lawyers allowed to register and practice in the area. Lawyers are properly insured and subject to an adequate disciplinary code.

It is suggested that at least as a discussion point that ;

1. As soon as each illegal arrival is detected that they first be assessed as suitable for home detention or not. All families/children should only be held in home detention.

2. That those who are detained are all detained in relative freedom at an island location with adequate telephone and communications access to Lawyers etc and with adequate access to social services.

3. Women who are unlawful non citizens who have Australian citizen children should only be held in home detention with full contact with their children.

4.  All unlawful arrivals be offered at least say A$4,000-00 to immediately return to their country of origin and waive any rights to apply to stay.

5. All unlawful non citizens with criminal records and or connections be held in gaol away from the general immigration centre population pending assessment/deportation, asap.

6. A short term bi partisan parliamentary committee and a retired Judge be periodically appointed to expeditious finally determine case as above when large numbers of detainees start to accumulate who have been in detention for more than 3 months.

7. New immigration should be specifically permitted for all areas only outside Sydney and Melbourne to prevent over population and undue pressure on services.

LAW ENFORCEMENT AND BEHAVIOUR INSIDE DETENTION FACILITIES.

At present there is a double standard operating in relation to the commission of criminal offences inside Detention Centres at least in relation to Villawood in NSW and detainees know this.

Examples include DIMIAS protection of officers who assaulted a number of Chinese in 1991 as demonstrated in the Yan Li case,protection of officers who apparently illegally threatened an injured man in a wheel chair with the use of syringes/chemical restraints contrary to the detention centre managers own guidelines as demonstrated in the Liang Wei Li case and the failure of NSW and Federal Police to investigate the alleged assault of young mother Virginia Leong by ACM Psychologist Michelle Chapman and ACM officers at Villawood in May 2002. By contrast the current alleged troublemakers are all going to criminally investigated and possibly prosecuted for lighting fires.

Apparently this contrast is maintained by use of a secret memorandum of agreement between DIMIA, NSW and Federal Police whereby despite the fact that the NSW Police have jurisdiction alleged assaults on inmates are effectively not investigated and swept under the carpet, sometimes allegedly for long enough so the evidence can disappear when detainees are deported. Anecdotal evidence suggests this the case in both the Yan Li,Liang Wei Li and the Virginia Leong case.
 
It is submitted that all relevant authorities should vigorously investigate and where applicable prosecute all offenders inside the Immigration system be they Detention centre officers/DIMIA staff or detainees and that any inmate who is convicted be immediately deported. Staff guilty of misconduct should not only be prosecuted but have their personnel files marked to ensure they are never employed by any security agency or company or State or Commonwealth Government Department again.

Such would, it is submitted do alot to bolster faith in the system on the part of all involved.

It is submitted that if consideration were given to the above together with other initiatives that alot of the tensions and current problems currently permeating Australian Immigration policy might be ameliorated in the short term as well as the long term.
 
Although of course it has to be realized that there may be and there are no magic panicures for problems arising and new initiatives therefore constantly need to receive active and bi partisan consideration.