National Security

Prime Minister defends deportation bill as it is revealed nearly half of released detainees are unmonitored

March 28, 2024

Thursday 28 March 2024
Kimberley Caines
The West Australian

The Federal Government is arguing that people staying in immigration detention is not punishment as the Prime Minister defended Labor’s attempt to rush a deportation bill through Parliament.

It has also been revealed nearly half of the non-citizens released from immigration detention are not wearing ankle bracelets.

There is a glimmer of hope from the Coalition that new legislation to make it easier for the Federal Government to deport non-citizens failing to cooperate with authorities could happen before the week of the Budget on May 14 —if it is recalled to Parliament sooner.

It comes as late on Thursday, the Government filed its defence in an upcoming High Court case that sparked the bill being introduced to Parliament this week.

A man, known as ASF17, is refusing to cooperate with the Government because he says he fears he would be harmed if he was deported back to Iran because he is bisexual.

The Government argues this is the first time in 10 years that he has brought the issue up.

It claims he had chances in his entry interview in 2013, in his protection visa application, in the interview of that visa in 2016, and again in 2016 when he applied for a safe haven visa when he feared harm over being stateless and for converting to Christianity, and in the years that he had been in detention.

“Notwithstanding, the prominence given to his bisexuality in his submission in this court, the (man) never claimed to fear harm in Iran on the basis that, if he is returned to Iran, he would engage in sexual activity with men,” the Government’s court response reads.

The Albanese Government has been under fire since November for not being ready for when the High Court ruled it unlawful to keep people locked up in immigration detention indefinitely.

Mr Albanese on Thursday said his Government found a “loophole” in the migration system and wanted to get it fixed as the Commonwealth faces the High Court challenge next month that could see the release of more than 170 detainees.

The Coalition and the Greens teamed up to refer the new bill to a parliamentary inquiry for scrutiny that will report back on May 7.

It comes as officials from the Home Affairs Department were quizzed for a second night this week and confirmed that 73 of the 152 former detainees released into the community following the NZYQ decision were not being monitored with tracking devices.

“Seventy-nine of those... have an electronic monitoring condition on their visa,” department operational compliance official Michael Thomas told the hearing.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt told the hearing the removal of the ankle bracelets was based on the advice of the community protection board that was set up in December to prepare applications to lock up the most dangerous non-citizens.

No applications have yet been lodged.

Shadow home affairs minister James Paterson accused the Government of a “cover-up”.

“Half of the 152 detainees are roaming free in the community without any electronic monitoring at all,” Senator Paterson said.

“The Albanese government must front up today. They promised more transparency. They promised regular reporting. They promised to come clean.

“They need to front up today and explain exactly how many of these detainees are out there who are a danger to the community, who are not being monitored, as they said they were.”

It took Labor eight days to patch up legislation last year to ensure the former detainees released after the November court ruling were sticking to their curfews and were wearing ankle bracelets.

But the Australian Border Force was not prepared and it was more than another week until it acquired the GPS trackers and had them put on.

A new preventative detention regime became law two weeks after that to put the worst offenders — including rapists and murderers — back behind bars.

It was this month forced to reissue visas for the cohort due to a technical bungle, which dates back to 2013.

The Prime Minister hit back at the Coalition for “playing politics” with Labor’s new legislation that would give the Government control to impose a prison sentence of one to five years on asylum seekers who refuse to cooperate with their deportation.

“Everyone had time to scrutinise,” Mr Albanese said on Thursday.

“This is closing a loophole which is there in the legislation — one was there under the former government. To be very clear, this is not about refugees, this is about people who have not been shown to have any right to be in Australia.”

The Government’s defence stated: “A non-citizen in that position is in ‘three-walled detention only’. Such detention is not punishment.”

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