Information for New Zealanders living in Australia

Damning report by Commonwealth Ombudsman on treatment of s501 detainees

10 January 2017

10 January 2017

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has released a damning report critical of the Australian Government's treatment of detainees held in immigration detention under s501 of the Migration Act. The report highlights the over-representation of New Zealanders whose visas have been revoked on character grounds through criminal convictions. Of the 1,219 people deported in the two years since January 2015, 697 were Kiwis.

New Zealanders have been the largest national group in immigration detention since March 2016. The numbers are greater for Kiwis since they can freely move to Australia and reside long term without obtaining citizenship. Oz Kiwi does not condone criminal activity, however people who have served their sentence should not be punished again by being deported from the country they call home.

S501 refers to the character grounds on which visas are issued to people entering Australia. To be granted a visa for Australia a person must not have been sentenced to 12 months or longer in prison. Previously the upper limit was 24 months. Anyone failing the character test can be denied entry to Australia or, if already residing, can have their visa revoked and be deported.

Previously those residing long term, with family connections and community ties, were offered protection from deportation. Now all offences including non-violent and less serious offending, and historic sentencing prior to December 2014, some dating back decades, count.

Oz Kiwi is concerned at the human rights issues raised in the report, particularly where a prisoner serves their sentence, and has their visa revoked but must wait for the paperwork to be processed before being deported. Even if the individual agrees to deportation they often wait up six to ten months or longer for the deportation to be finalised. This double jeopardy is especially harsh as they are effectively detained a second time without any justification. The revocation should be finalised while they are in prison.

The report has condemned the treatment of detainees in detention, including the lack of access to medical services. Detainees are not being provided with accurate or timely information on their rights to appeal their visa cancellation, plus the delays in processing deportations are also concerning.

Read the Commonwealth Ombudsman's report.