Looking for the truth in detention
Letter to Editor, The Weekend Australian
22-3 November 2003
Could our leaders explain why we continue to detain unauthorised
arrivals, including children, once we know they are not a health
or security risk and once we know they are no more likely to abscond
than other asylum-seekers living in the community.
On November 14, 2003, John Howard said: "The point of our
policy is to deter people from arriving here illegally ... That's
what people have to understand."
Philip Ruddock never tired of telling us: "Detention is not
punitive nor meant as a deterrent. But it is essential that unauthorised
arrivals are not allowed to enter the community until we are able
to establish their identity and that they do not constitute a security
and health risk. Detention ensures that they are available for processing
any claims to remain in Australia and that importantly they are
available for quick removal should they have no right to remain."
Yet 90 per cent of the last wave of boatpeople were proved to be
refugees and not in need of removal. Those in detention are six
times more likely to succeed in an appeal to the Refugee Review
Tribunal. So much for better processing in detention. Though we
remove more than 10,000 people every year, on average only 222 of
them are boatpeople.
Has the PM given us the truth? We detain children hoping to deter
others. Ruddock knew there was one problem with this. The High Court
says detention for such a purpose is unconstitutional unless authorised
and supervised by a court.
Father Frank Brennan SJ
Kings Cross, NSW
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