Information for New Zealanders living in Australia

Human Rights groups call to end indefinite detention

28 January 2022
Detention is arbitrary, and indefinite detention is cruel, unnecessary, and causes extreme harm.
Detention is arbitrary, and indefinite detention is cruel, unnecessary, and causes extreme harm.

An article by the University of New South Wales.

Leading legal and human rights organisations have joined together to call for an immediate end to the mandatory detention of asylum seekers and refugees by the Australian Government, labelling the system inhumane, unnecessary, and unlawful.

Today is the final day to make a submission on the Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2021, which is being considered by the Joint Standing Committee on Migration. We recommend that the Bill be passed.

More than 1,500 people are currently detained in Australian immigration detention facilities, and the average period a person spends in onshore immigration detention is 686 days. This compares with about 55 days in the United States and 14 days in Canada.

By its very nature, arbitrary and indefinite detention is cruel, unnecessary, and causes extreme harm.

It also contravenes numerous international agreements, including the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Madeline Gleeson, Senior Research Fellow, Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW: ‘Like other democratic nations, Australia has assumed obligations under international law not to deprive people of liberty arbitrarily, and not to subject people to cruel and inhuman treatment in the form of indefinite detention. Unfortunately, our domestic law does not reflect that position, meaning few remedies are available to those subjected to such treatment. Legislative reform to bring Australian law into line with its international commitments is much needed and long overdue.’

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) Senior Solicitor Lucy Geddes: ‘Australia is a global outlier in its cruel and degrading treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. Locking people up indefinitely is inhumane, unnecessary, and tantamount to torture. It must stop.’

Dr Graham Thom, Amnesty International Australia Refugee Advisor: ‘Australia was one of the architects of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and it’s shocking in the extreme in this context that we lock people up who have committed no crime other than seeking our safety. We are morally and legally obliged to help people seeking asylum, not destroy their physical and mental health by detaining them indefinitely - robbing them of their hopes and their humanity. It has to stop now.’

Sarah Dale, Centre Director and Principal Solicitor, Refugee Advice & Casework Service: ‘The existence of an immigration system, whereby people can be detained indefinitely on an automatic, non-reviewable and indiscriminate basis is inimical to the core principles of Australia’s legal system and international human rights principles broadly. The Australian Government must bring an end to this dehumanising and manifestly unjust policy.’

Rachel Saravanamuthu, Acting Principal, Human Rights Law Program, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre: 'Australia's treatment of people seeking asylum and refugees is a national shame. Indefinitely locking people up has a devastating impact on their mental and physical health and is tearing families apart. The Australian government must take urgent action to end indefinite detention.'

George Newhouse, Director and Principal Solicitor, National Justice Project: ‘Our Government knows they have a legal and moral duty to asylum seekers and refugees, yet instead of offering protection and care, they have slowly and painfully drained their mental and physical health, their hopes and their dreams. Enough is enough. It must stop.’

This article was first published by the University of New South Wales.