Immigration minister would determine by legislative instrument what constitutes a ‘prohibited thing’ inside detention centres

The Migration Amendment (Prohibiting items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017 now before the senate, will allow Dutton’s Border Force to use dogs, have increased powers to strip search detainees and go through their possessions without a warrant. The minister will have unfettered power to ban what ever he decides is a “prohibited thing” in detention centres (especially mobile phones). This Bill entrenches institutionalised brutality. It needs to be stopped

Already asylum seekers are transferred to other centres with no notice in the middle of the night, their possessions ransacked and mobile phone, books papers seized. Since the first reading of this Bill in parliament, visitors to detention centres have been banned from bringing in fresh fruit, home cooked food, board games, permission forms to seek professional help on a detainees’ behalf and any paper or pens. Visitors now must face draconian security measures and are only allowed to see one person at a time per day.

Previously visitors could inject some humanity for those facing indefinite detention, by sharing fruit and food, playing games and celebrating birthdays during their visits. These measures mean none of this important contribution to their mental health and well-being are now possible. We cannot even take in a birthday cake or a piece of paper to record someone’s birthday or phone number. Those affected tell us they “feel  punished” . The cumulative effect of these measures is already palpable in terms of low morale of those in detention and a marked withdrawal from visits and engagement.

Hani (not his real name) was a person seeking asylum, living and working in the community when he committed a minor traffic offense. The police picked him up and he was put back in detention. Six months later he went to court and was supported by detention centre visitors he had met who had helped him get legal help. He was told by the court he had no case to answer after serving such a long time, and would be released.

A week later in the middle of the night he was dragged from his bed, handcuffed and taken to the Airport to be transferred to a remote detention centre. His phone was taken and he had no chance to pack anything or send a message to anyone. His goods were sent on. He didn’t bother to complain about missing books etc. It had happened to him before. If this Bill is passed all these actions by Border force would be legal. Currently they are under scrutiny. Hani has been told there is no expected date for his release. He will just have to wait.

What you can do
1.You can send a submission (a letter) to the current senate inquiry into the bill and have your say on or before October 13th 2017    Submission pro forma attached.

2. You can ring your state senators and tell them your concerns about the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017
For more information see


Submission Format
Your name
Contact details
Date October 2017

Committee Secretary
Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra, ACT 2600

Submission regarding Migration Amendment (Prohibiting items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017

Dear Committee Secretary,

My name is ………. I am concerned about Australian’s treatment of people seeking asylum.(add any experience you have here)

1. I believe that people currently in our detention centres should be treated with respect and not as dangerous criminals. The provisions of allowing dogs, strip searches and draconian search provisions without search warrants, denies people who have fled to us for safety any sense of wellbeing and risks further traumatising them. It does not demonstrate the Australian values of decency and respect.

2.The changing of the definition of what is a “prohibited thing” in section 251 clause 2-subsection (b) gives the minister power to determine what “a prohibited thing” is. This has a flow on effect throughout Migration Amendment (Prohibiting items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017 affecting the power to undertake strip searches, the use of dogs and other invasions of a persons rights. The addition of this clause is not needed. The previous definition of section 251clause 2(a) (which prohibits things which are unlawful in Australia) is sufficient.

3 There is no provision in the bill for the minister’s decision of what is a “prohibited thing”: to be challenged by any court. The Minister determines what detainees can have access to and what their visitors can bring in. Democracy demands checks and balances. No politician should be able to operate without scrutiny. A public court must have the right to challenge the minister’s actions.

4.There must be provision for the publication in the public domain of what the Minister has determined to be ”A prohibited thing” and a notice period that visitors or detainees will be given. Otherwise the Minister has the right to random un-examined power over people’s lives.

5. It is essential that people seeking asylum have a mobile phone to stay in touch with their families who are in dangerous places and cannot manage to ring through a public phone.

In short this Bill represents legalising institutionalised brutality and should be voted down.

Yours sincerely

Your Name
Title e.g. BMRSG Detention Centre Visitor

Delivering your submission
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