Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
11 Apr 2012
11 Apr 2012
Dr Falzon, who has long spoken out against Australia's mandatory detention policies for asylum seekers, nevertheless welcomes the release of a report into detention by a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee and supports its recommendation that time limits be put on detention.
But the committee's suggestion people be held for up to 90 days is still too long, Dr Falzon says and believes the submission to the committee by the Refugee Council of Australia of 30 days is "nearer the mark."
"Children on the other hand should not be detained at all," he says and once again calls on the system of mandatory detention for asylum seekers to be dismantled. "Detention Centres are factories for producing mental illness and anguish. We should instead be looking to align ourselves more closely to the European model of registration and release for people seeking asylum."
After considering more than 3500 submissions, holding 11 public hearings and visiting detention facilities in Sydney, Melbourne and on Christmas Island, the committee released its report last week.
Among the 31 recommendations made by the Committee was that asylum seekers who pass initial health and security checks should not be held in detention for more than 90 days. The Joint Select Committee also recommended that asylum seekers be permitted to appeal assessments by ASIO. Currently even if asylum seekers are found to be genuine refugees, if they receive a negative security assessment they are not given a reason nor chance to appeal this assessment.
Although 3400 asylum seekers have been placed in community detention since October 2010, more than 5000 adults and 500 children remain in detention centres, some of whom have been held for more than two years.
"We recognise the Minister for Immigration, his department and not-for-profit organisations have made a concerted effort towards community-based detention, but we urge them to take the next step and legislate a minimal time-limit on detention," says Vinnies' National President, Anthony Thornton.
Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre supports this view and says after policy promises by successive governments have failed, the only way the current system can be brought under control is through legislated time-limits on detention.
"The evidence before us now is a system in crisis with seven deaths in 18 months, people in dire distress, widespread mental illness and a culture of neglect and denial," she says.