Institutionalised brutality has to be challenged.
Again! Last year we thought that we had stopped Minister Dutton’s plans to allow the use of dogs in detention centres and for officers to have increased powers for strip searches and seizures without warrants. We thought that the Minister of Home Affairs wouldn’t have the arbitrary right to decide what was to be a “prohibited object” in detention centres and would remain answerable to Parliament and the courts for his actions. We thought that people in immigration detention could keep their phones.
But the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017 is back. It is in the Senate to be voted on this session.
The independent members of the Senate need to understand the problems urgently.
Write to the independent members today. Names listed at end of the post.
The Honourable ………….
Member of the Senate
Canberra ACT 2600
Dear Honourable Senator,
I am writing to you about my concerns over the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017 currently before the senate. I am a member of the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group and our members regularly visit the Villawood Detention Centre.
I believe it is cruel and inhumane to use dogs in detention centres and for officers to have increased powers for strip searches and seizures without warrants. People seeking asylum are not criminals and should be treated with respect. The Minister for Home Affairs should not have the arbitrary right to decide what is a “prohibited object” in detention centres without being answerable to Parliament and the courts for his actions. No politician in a democracy should be able to act without scrutiny. People in immigration detention should keep their mobile phones.
I urge you to vote against this bill
If you want to go into more detail below is the submission we sent in to Parliament from BMRSG last year
- I believe that people currently in our detention centres should be treated with respect and not as dangerous criminals. People seeking asylum are not 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. It is cruel and inhumane
- 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.
- The changes foreshadowed by this Bill are already being put in place in Detention Centres and the results are undermining detainee’s mental health. Since the first reading of this Bill in parliament on September 13th 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. Visitors cannot even take in a birthday cake or a piece of paper to record someone’s birthday or phone number. Those affected tell visitors that 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.
- 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 always have the right to challenge the minister’s actions.
- 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. We have experienced this at Villawood. One week we are told no fresh fruit or food. The next week anything that has on its label ”Refrigerate after opening” is banned. Ostensibly on health ground but as visitors are not allowed to stay very long and detainees cannot take food back to their rooms it makes no sense. Jam, Lemon butter and peanut butter were banned that day. How long does it take jam to go off? The next week games were banned. Scrabble and chess are obviously security risks! The week after any form of paper was banned. No notice. The Minister obviously believes this Bill is going to go straight though the senate.
- 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. The excuse that a drug deal was done on a mobile phone is spurious. Why wont it be done on a public phone? To ban phones because people will organise protests in an interference with the right of free speech. More heavy-handed oppression. Peace and safety do not flow from brutality and unfettered power.
In short this Bill represents legalising institutionalised brutality and should be voted down.
Names and addresses of all Senators. Senators
Names and addresses of Independent Senators
Senator Fraser Anning
Katters Australia Party
Senator Cory Bernardi
Senator Brian Burston
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (that was last week)
Senator Peter Georgiou
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
Senator Pauline Hanson
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
Senator Derryn Hinch
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party
Senator David Leyonhjelm
Liberal Democratic Party
Senator Rex Patrick
Senator Tim Storer