Sunday 1st May 2011
Detainees engaged in disorderly conduct, such as rooftop protests would face tough new sanctions under a Coalition plan to regain control of our immigration detention centres, Shadow Minister for Productivity and Population and Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Scott Morrison said today.
“The Coalition will introduce a new policy for Australia’s immigration detention network that enables sanctions to be applied to disorderly detainees who violate the good order and smooth running of detention centres,” Mr Morrison said.
“The rolling crisis in our detention network has exposed that managers of our detention centres currently have no authority from the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship to take any action against rioting and disorderly detainees.
“Amazingly when Tony Abbott and I toured the Christmas Island Detention facilities with Michael Keenan earlier this week, Serco officials confirmed they had no authority to take action against detainees who acted up, in particular through roof top protests.
“Once they come down from the roof, there is no sanction for their behaviour, they retain all privileges within the centre. Detention centre staff are also restricted from resisting detainees engaging in disorderly behaviour, including protest action, as we have seen most recently at Villawood. In the current environment, Labor’s softly softly approach is creating further chaos.
“The job of managing more than 6,500 detainees in an overstretched detention network is hard enough, under Labor’s failed border protection polices. Now we learn that staff are not given the authority they need to maintain the good order of these centres.
“It’s all carrot and no stick in Labor’s detention centres. This needs to change.
“While detention centres are not prisons, this should not excuse violent and other disorderly behaviour by detainees. Such behaviour compromises these facilities, puts Australians working in these centres at risk and unfairly penalises others in the system who are now trying to do the right thing.
“The Coalition will establish a new, enforceable and mandatory Code of Conduct for detainees in Australia’s immigration detention network that sets out the standard of behaviour expected of detainees who are being considered for a visa in Australia or awaiting return.
“Australians have every right to expect that those being accommodated in our detention centres, who have arrived illegally in Australia, behave themselves and respect our rules. There are no excuses for the type of behaviour we have seen exhibited in our detention centres during Labor’s rolling detention crisis.
“If the Coalition forms Government, as Minister I will authorise the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and their agents, namely Serco, through a formal protocol to be established in Government, to take punitive actions against those who violate the Code. Such sanctions will range from denial of privileges, such as internet, phone access and visitation rights through to suspension of immigration processing, confinement or fines to pay for damaged property.
“This protocol will also include authorisation for DIAC and their agents to use reasonable force to ensure compliance with the Code and other lawful instructions by authorised officers, including the AFP and state polices forces. Repeat offences against the Code would also face more serious sanctions, provided for under s501 of the Migration Act.
“The Code will be in addition to sanctions that relate to criminal conduct, where offenders will be charged, face a custodial sentence and denial of a visa, permanent or temporary.
“Further details of the Code will be announced prior to an election. Under an Abbott Coalition Government, detainees will be aware of who is in charge of the detention network from day one,” Mr Morrison said.
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