PIAC investigating a class action for people handcuffed in immigration detention

  • PIAC is investigating a potential class action lawsuit on behalf of people who have been unlawfully handcuffed in immigration detention.
  • Current and former detainees who were handcuffed while in immigration detention are invited to share their experiences in a short online survey.
  • Answers to 2022 Senate Budget Estimates showed that in one year the government employed ‘planned use of force’, including handcuffing immigration detainees attending off-site medical appointments, over 5500 times.
  • Recently, asylum seeker and PIAC client Yasir*, who was handcuffed in detention, settled a claim against the Commonwealth on confidential terms.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is seeking information from people who have been handcuffed while held in Australian onshore immigration detention, for a potential class action lawsuit.

PIAC wants to hear from people who were handcuffed while detained in Australian immigration detention:

  • in Western Australia (including Christmas Island) or the Northern Territory, at any time from 2021 until now; or
  • in any other state or territory of Australia, at any time from 2018 until now.

Current and former detainees in those categories can share their experiences in a short online survey at www.piac.asn.au/handcuffing.

‘Reports by the Australian Human Rights Commission and Commonwealth Ombudsman, and the experiences of our clients, all indicate there is widespread and on-going misuse of handcuffs in immigration detention,’ PIAC Senior Solicitor Grace Gooley says.

‘We believe handcuffs are routinely used when detainees attend medical appointments offsite and during transfers between immigration detention centres, instead of only being used when necessary as a last resort, as required by the government’s own policy. This is unacceptable, as it can deter detainees from accessing essential medical care, particularly as many people seeking asylum have a history of torture and trauma.’

‘We would like to hear about people’s experiences of handcuffing in immigration detention to help us investigate a potential class action lawsuit.’

PIAC recently settled a landmark test case against the Commonwealth and its security contractor, Serco, on behalf of Yasir, an asylum seeker who was handcuffed while in immigration detention. Yasir had a history of childhood torture and abuse involving handcuffs and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. However, Yasir was told he could not attend off-site medical appointments while held in immigration detention unless he wore handcuffs. This caused him to miss out on critical healthcare.

After a three year legal battle, the case settled on confidential terms that Yasir was pleased with.

*Name has been changed to protect our client’s identity.

Media contacts:
PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Danielle Buhagiar: 0478 739 280

[email protected]

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