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Report into immigration detention of Australian

Ombudsman releases report into immigration detention of Australian citizen

The Commonwealth Ombudsman, Prof. John McMillan, today released a report into the circumstances of the immigration detention of a mentally ill Australian citizen.

Originally from Vietnam, Mr T is an Australian citizen who suffers from severe mental illness. Officers of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) detained him as a suspected unlawful non-citizen on three occasions between 1999 and 2003. On one of those occasions he was detained for a period of eight months.

The Report on Referred Immigration Cases: Mr T is the latest report to be published in a series of cases referred to the Ombudsman by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, following the inquiries into the Cornelia Rau and Vivian Alvarez matters in 2005.

Prof. McMillan said: ‘Mr T’s case is disturbing as it involved the detention on three occasions of an Australian citizen. Mr T’s mental illness, his homelessness and lack of an effective personal social support structure, his poor English language skills and his ethnic background were all factors that contributed to the decisions taken by DIMA officers to detain and continue to detain him as a suspected unlawful non-citizen’.

The report provides further evidence of departmental shortcomings previously identified in the Report of Inquiry into the Circumstances of the Vivian Alvarez Matter and, in particular, identifies the difficulties that DIMA officers face when dealing with people who suffer from mental illness.

Prof. McMillan noted that the default of DIMA in detaining Mr T was compounded by the circumstances of his release. ‘Despite DIMA being aware of Mr T’s mental illness, he was released into the community without any arrangements being made for his ongoing support and care. It is incumbent on DIMA in circumstances such as these to acknowledge a responsibility for a person’s wellbeing that extends beyond the person’s release from detention.’

In releasing the report, Prof. McMillan said: ‘It is pleasing to note that the Secretary of DIMA, Mr Andrew Metcalfe, has already apologised to Mr T and offered to discuss how the issues resulting from action by the department might be resolved’.

Prof. McMillan has made 11 recommendations intended to assist DIMA in addressing the deficiencies identified in the report.

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