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Enough Is Enough - Review Immigration Detention

Enough Is Enough - Time To Review Immigration Detention

Federal Human Rights Commissioner Dr Sev Ozdowski has called on the federal Government to urgently review Australia's system of mandatory immigration detention following damning revelations of wrongful detention and deportation of Australian citizens and ongoing concerns over the mental health of detainees.

The Commissioner said that the recent revelations concerning the mistreatment of adult Australians simply reinforces the findings that were made exactly one year ago in the Commission's report on children in immigration detention.

"When there is no provision for an independent individual assessment of each and every person and no requirement for judicial oversight, the risk of serious mistakes becomes unacceptably high. And mistakes like those revealed from immigration department officers over the past weeks and months become unsurprising," said Dr Ozdowski.

Twelve months ago (13 May), the report of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention was tabled in federal Parliament. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report detailed numerous and repeated breaches of the human rights of children in our immigration detention centres.

The report, titled A last resort?, found that Australia's mandatory detention system breaches human rights because it fails to ensure that detention is the last resort and for a short period only, and fails to make the best interests of the child a primary consideration. It has also drawn attention to the connection between prolonged detention and mental health issues.

The Inquiry found that DIMIA's failure to implement repeated recommendations by mental health professionals to remove certain children from detention with their parents, was cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of those children in detention," the Commissioner said.

When responding to A last resort? one year ago, the government rejected the major findings and recommendations and dismissed it as 'backward looking'.

"The facts revealed so far in the Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon (Alvarez) cases seems to suggest that our findings were far from backward looking - rather they were tragically prophetic," said Dr Ozdowski.

Despite the Commissioner calling for the release of all children who were in immigration detention centres and residential housing projects at the time, there are still 69 children behind razor wire (including Nauru). Some of those children were in detention when the report was tabled a year ago.

"Twelve months ago, the facts we presented to the department on the plight of children in immigration detention spoke for themselves - the facts revealed from revelations in recent months are deafening," Dr Ozdowski said.

"It is undisputed that the detention environment is either the cause of mental health issues for long term detainees and/or exacerbates existing conditions - the recent Federal Court decisions for the two Baxter detainees reinforce this assertion."

The Commissioner said that the government is failing in its duty of care to detainees, most of whom are found to be refugees sooner or later and are integrated into the community anyway.

"Our immigration detention system is creating tragic and unnecessary costs both to individual detainees and the Australian community at large. It is no wonder that there is no other system like it anywhere else in the world," said Dr Ozdowski.

"At the launch of A last resort?, I repeated the old proverb 'he who forgets the past is condemned to repeat it in the future'. One year later and it seems little has been learned. Enough is enough - the system has to change."


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