UN experts suspend detention visits; and the use of secret evidence in court
Broadcast Tue 25 Oct 2022
The head of a UN team inspecting detention facilities in Australia, Aisha Shujune Muhammad, speaks to the Law Report about the decision to suspend the visit. And, in court or tribunal hearings, can one side use secret evidence that the other can't see? (ABCRN 2022).
UN torture prevention body suspends visit to Australia citing lack of co-operation
The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) has decided to suspend its visit to Australia due to obstructions it encountered in carrying out its mandate under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), to which Australia is a party.
The SPT delegation has been prevented from visiting several places where people are detained, experienced difficulties in carrying out a full visit at other locations, and was not given all the relevant information and documentation it had requested.
Despite its continued efforts to engage the authorities for the resolution of the problems, the SPT continued to be obstructed in the exercise of its mandate (OHCHR 2022).
Suspension of visit by UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture
The Australian Government regrets the decision of the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) to suspend its visit to Australia.
It is disappointing that the New South Wales Government refused to allow the SPT to visit any state-run places of detention across that state.
The SPT experienced some difficulties in accessing specific places of detention in jurisdictions other than NSW. These difficulties were unfortunate, but attempts were made to resolve issues in good faith. Access to Commonwealth-run places of detention were facilitated in all cases.
Australia has been a party to the Convention since 1989 and ratified the Optional Protocol in 2017. No state or territory objected to ratification. No state or territory has requested funding to facilitate the SPT’s visit, which had its costs met by the UN (Dregrus 2022).
US prison operator begins $750,000-a-day contract for Nauru offshore regime
The private prison operator now in charge of Australia’s offshore processing regime on Nauru will be paid more than three-quarters of a million dollars every day to provide “garrison and welfare services” for a little over 100 people.
The US-based Management and Training Corporation – a company previously accused in US courts of “gross negligence’’ and “egregious” security failures – has been awarded a contract for $47.3m covering just 62 days of work on the Pacific island.
The latest government figures show 111 refugees and asylum seekers are now on Nauru as part of Australia’s offshore regime (Doherty 2022)
BUDGET 2022: Funds for language classes and visa assessment dwarfed by extra spending on offshore processing
Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has welcomed the Albanese Government’s increased Budget investment in the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), faster visa processing and support for temporary entrants from Ukraine but these allocations have been dwarfed by a $150 million increase in funding for the Government’s offshore processing regime (RCOA 2022).
Overwhelming majority of Australians back a pathway to permanency for refugees on TPVs | Kaldor Centre
Three out of four voters – including 72% of Coalition voters – support a pathway to permanent protection for refugees who are currently living in Australia on temporary protection visas (TPVs).
According to the results of a survey conducted by researchers, there was majority support for a pathway to permanent settlement across all parties. Support was strongest (90%) among self-identified Greens voters, with 80% Labor voters, 74% of independent voters, and 72% of Coalition voters also in favour (Kaldor 2022).
First refugees from Nauru to be resettled in New Zealand arrive nine years after deal offered
The first six refugees to be resettled in New Zealand from Australia’s offshore processing regime on Nauru have landed in Auckland.
The flight follows a resettlement deal first offered by New Zealand nine years – and three prime ministers – ago when it proposed taking 150 refugees from Australia’s offshore centres every year (Doherty 2022).
Home Affairs department 'accidentally' sent letters telling asylum seekers to leave Australia, minister says
The Home Affairs Minister has said hundreds of letters "accidentally" sent to refugees and asylum seekers telling them to get out of the country were not appropriate and were sent without her knowledge.
The letters were posted and emailed to at least 490 refugees and asylum seekers in September and October, many of whom are living in the community on bridging visas.
Many are hoping for permanent settlement in Australia, having already spent years locked up in offshore detention (Silva 2022).
Map reveals Australian hotels used for immigration detention, but secrecy means it’s incomplete
Researchers have mapped dozens of hotels used for immigration detention by the Australian government, the first nationwide visualisation of a practice that has operated largely in the shadows.
But the data remains incomplete.
For two decades, the Australian government has run a network of semi-secret “alternative places of detention” – often hotels in major cities – at times detaining more than 3,000 people, but with almost no publicly available information about them.
The locations of the “Apods” are not listed publicly by the government, and a freedom of information request for the information was refused this year because the department said it did not have a “list” of where they all are (Doherty 2022).
‘Never given a chance’: freed asylum seekers lament lost decade in immigration detention
At least eight Bangladeshi asylum seekers have been released from immigration detention in Australia after languishing there for a decade, in a move that signals the Albanese government is winding back arbitrary detention, according to a lawyer for some of the men.
But while their release has given them hope, the men have spoken out about the terrible toll of the lengthy period of indefinite detention.
“Who is going to give me back 10 years of my life?” one man said through an interpreter (Karp 2022).
UN questions Australia’s ‘will’ to comply with human rights obligations
After delaying its deadline several times, Australia is struggling to comply with a UN protocol against torture.
United Nations experts have questioned Australia’s “will” to comply with its international human rights obligations, as hopes of meeting an impending deadline hang by a thread (Sadler 2022).
Scott Morrison falsely claimed he lacked powers to help Biloela family
Scott Morrison falsely suggested he lacked ministerial powers to help the Biloela family while he was sworn in to administer the home affairs department.
The day before the 2022 election, Morrison dead-batted calls to help the Murugappan family, claiming he needed to leave the decision to immigration minister, Alex Hawke.
.... [an] inquiry by former high court justice Virginia Bell found that several of Morrison’s secret appointments were an “exorbitant” way to overrule his ministers in the event of disagreement about their use of their powers.
Through his solicitor, Morrison told the inquiry his reasoning for being appointed to administer the home affairs department related to citizenship cancellation powers “as well as numerous direct ministerial powers under the Migration Act” including visa cancellations and “in relation to visas generally”. (Karp 2022).
Refugees to be given the right to travel overseas
More than 19,000 refugees who have been separated from their families for a decade will be allowed to travel overseas to see them, ending “great and enduring uncertainty”, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles will announce on Saturday. The government will also amend a ministerial direction that put people who had arrived in Australia by boat before July 19, 2013, who hold permanent visas, on the lowest priority rung for family reunion visas (Hall 2022).
Electronic monitoring in community could reduce immigration detention, document states
The briefing note reveals that in March 2020, the former secretary of the Attorney General’s Department Robert Cornall delivered an independent detention case review to the Morrison government.
It recommended that the department explore the development of an “individual dynamic risk assessment capability to consider the release of detainees into the community” (JKarp 2022).
Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) released its 2021/2022 Annual Report
Research by the Melbourne Social Equity Institute and Human Rights Law Centre confirmed that asylum seekers on bridging visas were at a higher risk of labour
ABCRN 2022, UN experts suspend detention visits; and the use of secret evidence in court, ABC RN, https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lawreport/un-detention-torture/14088930
Hall, Bianca 2022, Refugees to be given the right to travel overseas, Sydney Morning Herald, November 2022, https://www.smh.com.au/national/refugees-to-be-given-the-right-to-travel-overseas-20221116-p5bytz.html
Silva, Kristian 2022, Home Affairs department 'accidentally' sent letters telling asylum seekers to leave Australia, minister says, ABC online, November 2022,
Doherty, Ben 2022, US prison operator begins $750,000-a-day contract for Nauru offshore regime, The Guardian, October 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/oct/24/us-prisons-operator-mtc-begins-nauru-contract-australia-offshore-immigration-processing-detention?
Doherty, Ben 2022, First refugees from Nauru to be resettled in New Zealand arrive nine years after deal offered, The Guardian November 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/oct/24/us-prisons-operator-mtc-begins-nauru-contract-australia-offshore-immigration-processing-detention?
Doherty, Ben 2022, Map reveals Australian hotels used for immigration detention, but secrecy means it’s incomplete, The Guardian, November 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/dec/02/map-reveals-australian-hotels-used-for-immigration-detention-but-secrecy-means-its-incomplete?
Kaldor Centre 2022, Overwhelming majority of Australians back a pathway to permanency for refugees on TPVs,https://www.kaldorcentre.unsw.edu.au/news/overwhelming-majority-australians-back-pathway-permanency-refugees-tpvs
Karp 2022, Never given a chance’: freed asylum seekers lament lost decade in immigration detention, The Guardian, November 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/nov/21/never-given-a-chance-freed-asylum-seekers-lament-lost-decade-in-immigration-detention
Karp 2022, Scott Morrison falsely claimed he lacked powers to help Biloela family, The Guardian, November 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/nov/30/scott-morrison-falsely-claimed-he-lacked-powers-to-help-biloela-family?
Karp 2022, Electronic monitoring in community could reduce immigration detention, document states, The Guardian, November 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/nov/22/electric-monitoring-in-community-could-reduce-immigration-detention-document-states?
OHCHR 2022, UN torture prevention body suspends visit to Australia citing lack of co-operation, OHCHR, https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/10/un-torture-prevention-body-suspends-visit-australia-citing-lack-co-operation
Sadler, Denham 2022, UN questions Australia’s ‘will’ to comply with human rights obligations, Crikey News, November 2022, https://www.crikey.com.au/2022/11/22/united-nations-australia-human-rights-torture/
Refugee Council Australia 2022, BUDGET 2022: Funds for language classes and visa assessment dwarfed by extra spending on offshore processing, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/budget-2022-funds-for-language-classes-and-visa-assessment-dwarfed-by-extra-spending-on-offshore-processing/
The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP 2022, Suspension of visit by UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, Attorney General Media Release 2022, https://ministers.ag.gov.au/media-centre/suspension-visit-un-subcommittee-prevention-torture-24-10-2022