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Refugee Council supports detention reform and campaign for Royal Commission

Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has welcomed legislation introduced to Federal Parliament this week to reform immigration detention and backed a campaign launched today to seek a Royal Commission into the impact of Australia’s detention regime. 

RCOA CEO Paul Power says the bill introduced yesterday by Independent MP Kylea Tink provides a clear path forward in ensuring that detention is only used when necessary and for the shortest time possible. The bill aligns with the Australian Labor Party’s national platform which commits Labor to enshrining a “90 day rule” on detention, regularly reviewing decisions to detain and ensuring children are not held in immigration detention.   

“Australia holds people in immigration detention far longer than any comparable country – 708 days as of August 2023,” Mr Power said. 

“For years RCOA has put forward a series of submissions and reports strongly recommending the end of arbitrary detention, noting that, in the words of 2010 Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry, detention centres are ‘factories for producing mental illness and mental disorder’.  

“Sadly, these recommendations have not been implemented by successive governments. 

“A Royal Commission into the use of immigration detention is urgently needed to highlight the harm that detention has caused and show a clear way forward. 

“Many billions of dollars have been spent in the name of the Australian people on harsh detention policies which have caused great distress and done little or nothing to resolve people’s migration status. 

“Australia is the only country to impose mandatory indefinite detention for people who arrive without prior notice to seek asylum. If other countries can manage their immigration program without mandatory detention, so can we. 

“As the recent finding of the High Court shows, immigration detention is an administrative process that is only to be used for the purpose of resolving someone’s visa status.  

“The details of the High Court’s decision, due to be handed down this afternoon, will require significant legislative reform on the use of detention. Ms Tink’s bill could lay the groundwork for that reform, as it clearly outlines a way forward for the government to implement the High Court’s decision.  

“We urge all members of parliament to seriously consider this bill, and to push for a Royal Commission into the use of immigration detention.” 

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