Community Safety

Another detainee muddle

June 3, 2024

Monday 03 June 2024
Katina Curtis
The West Australian

 Confusion over how Government is using drones to watch non-citizens
 Drones are photographing and mapping the areas where former immigration  detainees are living to ensure they are not near schools or other forbidden  areas - but not tracking individuals.
 The Government has repeatedly insisted that the 153 people released from  immigration detention after the High Court NZYQ ruling were being constantly  monitored.
 About half have electronic ankle trackers and other monitoring efforts  include curfews, reporting requirements and random house checks.
 Immigration Minister Andrew Giles also revealed that Border Force was  "using drones to keep track of those people" the first time aerial  surveillance had been mentioned.
 Australian Federal Police later told an Estimates hearing they were not aware  of drones being used. But the Government has continued to insist they are  part of the operational efforts.
 On Sunday, Cabinet minister Murray Watt said they were checking the locations  and proposed accommodation of the non-citizens. "My understanding is  that drones are being used as part of this operation, but more in the sense  of monitoring the accommodation that people are living in, for example,  ensuring that it's not too close to schools or other areas that they're not  supposed to be living close to," he said.
 Under laws rushed through Parliament in November after the High Court ruling,  one of the conditions that can be imposed on the bridging visas for the  cohort is that if they were convicted of an offence involving a child, they  must not go within 200m of a school or childcare centre.
 A Home Affairs spokesperson said authorities keeping tabs on the NZYQ cohort  under Operation Aegis "may use aerial imagery from a variety of sources  for operational planning purposes, for example to confirm the location of a  BVR holder's accommodation".
 Shadow home affairs minister James Paterson rubbished the notion that drones  were being used for mapping.
 "You don't need a drone to do that. That sounds like satellite imagery.  It sounds like, frankly, something a 12-year-old would get on Google Earth,"  he said.
 "What on earth is going on here? And why won't Andrew Giles be upfront  about whether or not he just made this up or he accidentally revealed a  secret drone program?" Mr Giles is also scrambling to fix up another  immigration mess after it emerged his department failed to tell him the  Administrative Appeals Tribunal was overturning visa cancellations for  serious criminals and citing a ministerial direction to consider a person's  ties to Australia.
 The minister is working to reissue a new direction that places community  safety as the highest-order consideration in such cases. He has also been  re-cancelling visas.

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