Wednesday October 26 2005 9:20am WST
For Immediate Release
"Yesterday's revelations by the Commonwealth Ombudsman that some of the 'probably' unlawfully locked-up Immigration detainees may have been detained for up to seven years raises the issue of detainees held - after completing a sentencing in one of Australia's State prisons - indefinitely in those same State facilities, but under the authority of the Immigration Department, in collaboration with the States," West Australian human rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.
"The fact that those individuals have not been located in Baxter by groups actively visiting and supporting asylum-seeking immigration detainees, or are not listed on current network databases of detainees, corroborates anecdotal story that many of those referred to by the Ombudsman may be or were located in State prisons," spokesman Jack H Smit said.
"There is not just already on the record evidence of DIMIA cancelling visas of also long-term Australian residents who have been imprisoned for longer than one year after having been convicted of crimes - and keeping them in the same facility "available for removal" using powers available to it under the Migration Act - but also stories of Chinese Falun Gong practitioners held in prisons, even after they had declared their intent to seek asylum."
"If this is true, then the DIMIA can be said to try to work asylum claims "under the table", keeping asylum seekers out of the eye of refugee advocates and migration agents and making those claims "disappear".
"The fact that this happens in State prisons shows that the level of corruption and lack of accountability permeates also the State prison systems - and the State premiers should pluck up the courage to distance themselves from these practices and tell the DIMIA to go jump puddles and remove Immigration detainees from its prison systems."
"The Ombudsman's findings, uncovered by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee's Inquiry into the Migration Act, are very disturbing, and his report should indeed be made fully available to the public on completion."
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]