Thursday, May 26, 2005

Archival Rescue 46 ~ Aus Detention

200 wrongfully detained, 928 more detainees to check.

Scandal explodes to 200 detainees
By Joseph Kerr, Louise Dodson and Lee Glendinning May 26, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

The inquiry into the immigration fiasco has grown exponentially to cover more than 200 people in detention despite being lawfully in Australia, as confusion deepens in the Government over its mandatory detention system.

The head of the inquiry, the former federal police commissioner Mick Palmer, will not take on the extra load - and instead will recommend his investigation be handed over to a judicial power such as the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the ABC's Lateline reported last night.

But the cases referred to the inquiry could run even higher, as officials admit they are yet to check thoroughly the status of all 928 detainees.

Turmoil in the Government grew yesterday as the Prime Minister, John Howard, contradicted his Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, by saying a child born in Perth would not return to detention on Christmas Island with his mother and father.

And there is tension among Labor MPs, after the Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, denied them a conscience vote on two private member's bills to be put forward by the Liberal MP Petro Georgiou to release long-term detainees. Mr Howard had already ruled out a free vote for his MPs.

Mr Beazley staunchly supported mandatory detention yesterday, which he said Labor "invented", but he said its operation should be humane.

Appearing with senior immigration officials before a Senate estimates committee, Senator Vanstone announced the second wave of changes to immigration procedures in three months and revealed her department had referred a total of 201 cases to the Palmer inquiry. But Lateline said Mr Palmer would walk away. And Senator Vanstone, interviewed on the program, would not comment on whether he had recommended a wider inquiry.

The program said he believed a more open inquiry - with judicial powers to compel and protect witnesses - was needed. It said he would report only the original case he was asked to investigate: that of German-born Australian resident Cornelia Rau, who was held in Baxter detention centre for four months despite warnings she may have been schizophrenic.

But it has grown to include the wrongful deportation of Vivian Alvarez Solon to the Philippines - and a further 199 cases of detainees found to be lawfully in Australia.

Senator Vanstone said these included people detained for a "very short period of time whilst their identity and legal status is determined" and others who became legal while in detention, such as children made citizens automatically upon turning 10 if born here.

The detention changes announced by the minister include increasing the frequency of visits by psychiatrists to Baxter, from once every six weeks to once every fortnight; placing two new psychiatric nurses at the centre; better measures to identify people in detention; and making her department more open to complaints.

The Government is facing an unprecedented rebellion from its ranks, with six Liberal MPs backing the Georgiou bills.


Post a Comment

<< Home