The Government’s proposal to allow blanket-bans of mobile phones in immigration detention and extend search powers to allow invasive strip searches and the use of detection dogs, could have serious negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of women and men in detention. It is also unnecessary and unjustified.
PIAC’s response to the proposal has been outlined in a submission to the Inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2020.
‘We are very concerned about the harmful consequences of prohibiting mobile phones in immigration detention, particularly given the potential for this to exacerbate mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety already experienced by many detained asylum seekers,’ said PIAC Senior Solicitor, Gudrun Dewey.
‘People in immigration detention need access to mobile phones in order to communicate freely with family, friends, advocates and lawyers and to generally maintain connection with the outside world. They are the essential means by which detainees stay connected with the community, obtain support and exercise their legal rights. This has never been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic.’
‘Banning them from immigration detention facilities – which this Bill enables – would be cruel, harsh and ignores health warnings of medical experts that detained asylum seekers are at increased mental health-risk.’
PIAC is not aware of any evidence of widespread misuse of mobile phones or internet-capable devices in immigration detention. Nor has the Government demonstrated how banning all detainees from possessing items that do not pose an inherent safety or security risk is necessary to provide a safe and secure detention environment.
The Bill also proposes to significantly expand powers to search detainees and detention facilities and seize a range of items.
‘Not only are the search and seizure powers excessive and a disproportionate response to the safety and security risk the Bill seeks to address, but they cannot be justified when you consider the potential harmful consequences on the health and wellbeing of detainees,’ said Gudrun Dewey.
MEDIA CONTACT: Gemma Pearce, PIAC Media and Communications Manager: 0478 739 280.