Australian immigration detention facilities
Australian immigration detention facilities comprise a number of different facilities throughout Australia (including one on the Australian territory of Christmas Island). They are currently used to imprison people who are detained under Australia’s policy of mandatory detention, and previously under the now defunct Pacific Solution. The facilities are currently operated by Serco, and were previously run under G4S who used to be named Global Solutions Limited (GSL), under contract from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).
The Migration Act 1958 allowed discretionary detention of unauthorised arrivals until 1992. Since the 1990s when the ALP government of Paul Keating enforced a policy of mandatory detention of unauthorised arrivals, non-citizens arriving by boat without a valid visa were detained until they were either granted a visa, or deported.
Facilities and citizenship
Immigration Detention Centres (IDCs)
Immigration detention centres primarily imprison people who have overstayed their visa, breached their visa conditions and had their visa cancelled or have been refused entry at Australia's entry ports. This includes irregular maritime arrivals claiming asylum without passports, identity papers or valid entry visas. Under the Migration Act 1958, people arriving in this manner are classed as unlawful non-citizens and subject to mandatory detention. However, in 1954 the Australian government ratified the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Under Article 31 of the convention, the Australian government is legally obligated to grant anyone fleeing persecution and seeking asylum the right to enter the country by whatever means possible. Furthermore, the Article states that signatory countries are not to impose penalties on or indefinitely restrict the freedom of movement of those seeking asylum.
Australia's Migration Act 1958 requires people who are not Australian citizens and who are unlawfully in Australia to be detained. Unless they are given legal permission to remain in Australia by being granted a visa, unlawful non-citizens must be removed from Australia as soon as reasonably practicable. This requirement reflects Australia's right to determine who is permitted to enter and remain in Australia and the conditions under which those who cannot remain may be detained and removed. The Australian government claims that immigration detention is not used to punish people. Instead, they claim it is an administrative function whereby people who do not have a valid visa are detained while their claims to stay are considered or their removal is facilitated.
There are centres located at:
- Maribyrnong (established in Melbourne in 1966)
- Villawood (established in Sydney in 1976)
- Perth (established in 1981)
- Christmas Island (established in 2001)
- Northern (established in Darwin in 2001)
- Wickham Point (established in Darwin in 2011)
- Curtin (near Derby, WA, reopened in 2010)
- Scherger (near Weipa, Queensland, established in 2010)
- Yongah Hill (near Northam, WA, established in 2012)
Immigration Residential Housing Centres
Immigration residential housing provides an option for accommodating people in independent family-style housing in a community setting while still formally being detained. This type of facility is one of several types of alternative residential accommodation for detained people, subject to them meeting eligibility criteria.
- Port Augusta
Immigration Transit Accommodation Centres
The Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation opened in November 2007 and the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation opened in June 2008. Further immigration transit accommodation opened in Adelaide in 2011. ITCs are for short-term, low-risk detainees.
Alternative Places of Detention (APOD)
Alternative Places of Detention (APOD) can accommodate any person who is in immigration detention. APOD may range from hospital accommodation in cases of necessary medical treatment, schools for the purpose of facilitating education to school-aged minors, rented accommodation in the community (hotel rooms, apartments), or accommodation in the community made available through arrangements with other government departments.
- Christmas Island
Pacific Solution facilities
- Manus Island, Papua New Guinea closed during in February 2008, reopened on 22 November 2012.
- Nauru closed during in February 2008, reopened in 2012.
The facilities have been a source of much controversy during their time of operation. There have been a number of riots and escapes, as well as accusations of human rights abuses from organisations such as refugee advocates, Amnesty International, the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations.
On January 2014 the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens accused the government of a cover-up over a violent clash on 18 October 2013 at the Manus Island facility between the Papua New Guinea army and the PNG police mobile squad hired for the facility's security, leading to Australian expatriate staff being evacuated, while local staff and asylum seekers remained.
In March 2002, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Irene Khan, said:
It is obvious that the prolonged periods of detention, characterised by frustration and insecurity, are doing further damage to individuals who have fled grave human rights abuses. The detention policy has failed as a deterrent and succeeded only as punishment.
How much longer will children and their families be punished for seeking safety from persecution?—Irene Khan, Irene Khan
Former Prime Minister John Howard and successive immigration ministers maintained that their actions were justified in the interests of protecting Australia's borders and ensuring that immigration law was enforced. A 2004 Liberal Party election policy document stated:
Only Australian citizens and permanent residents should have the unrestricted right to travel to, and remain in, Australia. All other people must have an authority, issued by the Australian Government, to travel to, enter or stay in Australia.
The Coalition's border protection policy has two objectives: to deter people from arriving in Australia unlawfully, and to deal efficiently and humanely with people who arrive unlawfully, by either speedily returning them to their homeland, or by offering Australia's protection if they are genuine refugees.—Liberal Party of Australia, Liberal Party 2004 election policy
- "Australia". Immi.gov.au. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- "Deterring the ‘Boat People’: Explaining the Australian Government's People Swap Response to Asylum Seekers by Jaffa McKenzie, Reza Hasmath". SSRN. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2247142. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- "Welcome to DIBP". Immi.gov.au. 2009-09-17. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- [dead link]
- [dead link]
- "About the facilities". Immi.gov.au. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- "Fact Sheet 82 - Immigration Detention". Immi.gov.au. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/f/who-conv.php. Missing or empty
- "About immigration detention". Immi.gov.au. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- "About the facilities". Immi.gov.au. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- "First Asylum Seekers Sent to Manus Island". Theaustralian.com.au. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- "Troops ready to reopen detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island". Theaustralian.com.au. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- "ASIA-PACIFIC | Australia's asylum policy". BBC News. 2001-08-31. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- "Cover-up of violent PNG police-army clash on Manus". smh.com.au. Retrieved 2014-01-05.
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