Mandatory Detention and Temporary Protection
Mandatory Detention and Temporary Protection Petro Georgiou’s Private Member’s Bills
Myths and Facts – June 2005
Myth 1: Petro Georgiou’s Private Member’s Bills will end mandatory detention:
Fact: These Bills will not end mandatory detention. Asylum seekers who arrive without a visa will be detained for 90 days pending health and identification checks. If the Federal Court decides that there is a risk of absconding, or any security issues, then the court can determine longer periods of detention. Mandatory detention would remain for people who have overstayed their visas and are not asylum seekers. The Bills would end the system of providing only three year temporary protection visas (TPV’s) to people who have been found to be refugees.
Myth 2: Asylum seekers must be detained to stop them absconding:
Fact:: National and international research shows the levels of absconding to be very low. Melbourne’s Hotham Mission worked with more than 200 asylum seekers in the community during 2001-2003 (31% of which had been released from detention). No asylum seeker absconded. Studies in the UK and USA have shown similar results. For more information on this research go to www.hothammission.org.au .
Myth 3: If we soften mandatory detention policy we’ll be flooded by asylum seekers:
Fact: Asylum seekers have never flooded Australia. In 2001 Australia received 6,341 asylum seekers by boat. This is the highest number that has ever arrived in one year, and about half of Australia’s annual quota for humanitarian and refugee visas. Because of Australia’s geographic isolation and strict visa controls, it is highly unlikely that we will ever see large numbers of asylum seekers. Mandatory detention hasn’t been a significant deterrent to asylum seekers. It was introduced in 1992; and after that time, due to international conflict the number of unauthorised arrivals rose steadily until 2001. The flow of asylum seekers abated due to changed conflict conditions in the region of origin, increased surveillance and boat interception, and collaboration with the Indonesian Government.
Myth 4: We need to limit court appeals to stop people staying in detention for years:
Fact: In 1997, one Federal Court judge found that a decision by the Refugee Review Tribunal “totally lacks logic, the Tribunal’s decision as reached was so unreasonable that no reasonable Tribunal could reach it. But sadly, that is not a ground of review.” Subsequently in 2001, legislation was enacted to further restrict grounds for court appeals. Under the 2001 amendments, asylum seekers could only appeal on a limited number of errors of law, not on the substance of their asylum claim. Asylum seekers will be in increased danger of being deported to persecution if access to court appeals is restricted any further. The real solution is to fix the problems in initial refugee assessment process.
Myth 5: The remaining asylum seekers in detention aren’t genuine refugees:
Fact: Over the last two years, over 100 long-term failed asylum seekers were re-assessed and found to be genuine refugees after all. Some had spent 4 or 5 years in detention. Problems with Australia’s refugee assessment process include: lack of country information, inadequate training of decision makers and lack of power given to the courts to remedy wrong decisions. These problems can lead to genuine refugee claims being overlooked. In addition, Australia has no system to consider the legitimate protection needs of people who fall outside the narrow definition of a refugee. Included in this group are stateless people, and those who are from countries gripped by civil war. Detention centers are and psychologically damaging places to live. The fact that asylum seekers stay there is indicative of their strongly held belief that they’d be in danger if deported to their home country. The Edmund Rice Centre has researched what happens to failed asylum seekers deported from Australia. Their report found that 35 of 40 deported asylum seekers interviewed were living in dangerous circumstances immediately on arrival. Like the long-term detainees in detention, all had tried to convince Australian authorities that they would not be safe if deported.
Myth 6: Mandatory detention stops people coming on visitor’s visas to claimasylum:
Fact: Those who arrive by plane on a valid visa, and then claim asylum, are rarely detained. These asylum seekers are given a bridging visa and allowed to live in the community while their refugee claim is determined. There are currently around 8000 asylum seekers like this living in the Australian community. Only asylum seekers without valid passports and/or visas are detained. Most of these people are boat arrivals, but some come by plane.
Myth 7: Extra mental health staff in detention centres will help detainees:
Fact:: Recent research suggests that it is the detention centre environment itself that causes or exacerbates mental illness. Researchers from the NSW University School of Psychiatry studied a group of Iraqi refugees and calculated that mandatory detention, followed by temporary protection, was twice as destructive to the refugee’s mental health as the persecution they suffered in their homeland. Speaking to the ABC, psychiatrist Jon Jureidini said, “I think the detention environment drives people mad and you know we’ve got fairly substantial evidence of that now…I think we could move the whole college of psychiatrists into Baxter detention centre and people would not recover.”
Asylum Seeker Project – Hotham Mission (2003) Welfare Issues And Immigration Outcomes For Asylum Seekers On Bridging Visa E, www.hothammission.org.au
Refugee Council of Australia Fact Sheet 8 – http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/fact08.htm
Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs – www.immi.gov.au
Petro Georgiou MP, Member for Kooyong (2005) Private Member’s Bills – Legislation For An Act Of Compassion For People In Immigration Detention And Holders Of Temporary Protection Visas, And To Reform The Mandatory Detention System
Edmund Rice Centre report, ‘Deported to Danger’: http://www.erc.org.au/research/pdf/1096416029.pdf
Adele Horin ‘Driven Mad By Cruel Uncertainty’, 28 May, 2005, Sydney Morning Herald,
ABC ONLINE NEWS Tuesday, May 24, 2005 ‘Psychiatrists Criticise ‘Piecemeal’ Release Of Detainees’,
Mary O’Kane, 2003 Refugee and Asylum Seeker Issues in Australia. The Brotherhood of St Laurence