Unprincipled migration amendments introduce ‘indefinite surveillance’ and unjust sentences

PIAC is deeply concerned by the passing of the Migration Amendment (Bridging Visa Conditions) Bill, which creates a new system of ‘indefinite surveillance’ for people previously indefinitely detained and introduces mandatory sentences for even minor breaches of conditions.

The legislation introduces restrictive requirements, including electronic monitoring, constraints on movement and curfews, on this cohort of people who have been unlawfully detained.  

The use of electronic monitoring devices such as ankle tags, now the default requirement for this cohort, can have significant negative impacts on people’s health. This has been shown by their use in other jurisdictions, where electronic monitoring is described as having ‘a disastrous impact’ for people with mental health conditions.

Our previous work has shown that many people held in indefinite detention have developed complex mental and physical health conditions, which are likely to be exacerbated through the use of electronic monitoring devices,’ says PIAC Principal Solicitor Jonathan Hall Spence.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists has recognised that the use of electronic monitoring (in the similar context of forensic mental health services) has serious impacts on mental health recovery and exacerbates the symptoms of mental health illnesses. A study in the US demonstrated that the use of these devices can be ‘a source of acute physical and mental trauma’ and can inhibit access to healthcare.

The conditions imposed are not based on a legitimate assessment of risk and appear to amount to additional punishment. 

‘People who have completed prison sentences are released into the community every day, without these restrictive conditions. There is no justification for the harmful use of electronic monitoring devices on this cohort, just because they are non-citizens,’ Hall Spence continues.  

‘This law replaces one traumatising and dehumanising system with another.’

The introduction of mandatory minimum sentences for breaches of visa conditions is particularly unprincipled and unnecessary. 

‘When politicians set sentences without knowing the facts of a case, they undermine the rule of law and all but guarantee injustice. The punishment should fit the crime and be set by a court based on the facts of the case’, says Jonathon Hunyor, PIAC’s Chief Executive Officer. 

The Federal Government accepted a raft of draconian amendments to secure the hasty passage of this law, while indicating that further legislation may be introduced when the High Court publishes its full reasoning. We urge the government to use that opportunity to create new legislation that better accommodates the human rights of all concerned. 


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