The Bill amends the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) to empower the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection to ban mobile phones and other items in immigration detention centres. It also expands immigration officers’ warrantless search and seizure powers, and authorises them to use dogs to search detainees and visitors.
Liberty Victoria strongly opposes these measures. The Bill will further isolate asylum seekers and refugees in detention. It continues the growing criminalisation of Australia’s immigration laws, policies and institutions. Immigration detention centres are already characterised by daily lockdowns, and regular use of force and physical restraints on detainees. The Bill adds bans on harmless personal items, expanded search powers and the indiscriminate use of dogs to conduct searches of detainees and visitors. Immigration detention centres are not prisons, and people seeking asylum should not be treated like criminals.
Liberty Victoria opposes the use of immigration detention to warehouse people seeking asylum, or those whose visas have been cancelled on character grounds.
If detention nonetheless remains the lynchpin of our immigration system, it must accompanied by appropriate safeguards. One of these safeguards is accessibility: people in detention must have ready access to their family, friends, advisors and lawyers; and the Australian community must be free to look into the dark corners of our places of detention.
Liberty Victoria opposes the Bill because it thwarts these objectives, and continues the criminalisation of Australia’s immigration laws, policies and institutions.