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Thursday, 17 October 2002
Page: 5449

Senator Allison asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, upon notice, on 18 June 2002:

With reference to the Maribyrnong detention centre:

(1) Given the high level of monitoring, the security camera and the control room, which is manned 24 hours a day and has surveillance over every corridor and every area other than inside the bedrooms and toilets: (a) why is it necessary for 2-hourly headcounts; and (b) how are these headcounts conducted.

(2) Are records kept of headcounts; if so, can copies of these records be provided for the past 6 months; if not, why not.

(3) Can a schedule of the medication currently being taken by detainees and the doses of that medication together with medical records be provided.

(4) Are detainees forced to take sleeping pills or any other medication.

(5) What arrangements are in place to supervise the taking of medication.

(6) (a) What records of self harm are kept; and (b) can they be provided for the past year.

(7) Is it the case that only one blanket and no more than two on request is provided to each detainee.

(8) Why is it that visitors are not permitted to take blankets into the centre on request.

(9) Is it the case that heating at the centre was not turned on for 3 weeks after requests had been made.

(10) (a) Is the heating now fully operational; and (b) for what period of the day and night and in what areas is it turned on.

(11) Is it the case that none of the bedrooms, toilets and bathrooms have doors.

(12) Is it the case that detention guidelines call for privacy considerations; if so, how is this provided.

(13) Is it the case that detention officers who were previously employed as prison officers receive the full 6-week training course.

(14) What measures and processes are in place to ensure that complaints against officers can be made without any repercussions from, or retribution by, those officers towards the detainees.

(15) What are the current arrangements with regard to access to the external grassed area, including the size of groups allowed, times of access, number of detention officers present, etc.

(16) Is the mother of the three children aged 5 years, 3 years and 8 months permitted to accompany her child or children to kindergarten; if not, why not.

(17) Can the medical report on the detainee diagnosed with tuberculosis be provided.

(18) Where is that detainee presently.

(19) Why were detainees in the centre at the same time as this detainee not inoculated against the disease.

(20) Have the exposed detainees been subsequently tested for the disease; if not, why not.

(21) Is it the case that cut flowers are not permitted at the centre.

(22) Is it the case that visitors are not permitted to bring in notebooks and pencils; if so, when was this rule introduced.

(23) Can a copy of the rules that apply for visitors to Maribyrnong with regard to what may be brought to detainees by visitors be provided.

(24) What measures are in place to ensure that the rules are not interpreted differently or changed arbitrarily by various officers.

(25) Given that the department in its submission to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission indicated that cricket, badminton, treadmill, basketball, billiards, jewellery-making, Egyptian dancing, computing, music classes for children and sewing classes were being provided at the Maribyrnong detention centre, can a schedule be provided showing the times when these facilities are available to detainees.

(26) What are the rules with regard to birthing mothers.

(27) What arrangements are in place for the two children of the mother who gave birth most recently.

(28) Why is it that a burns victim who required skin grafts, was not provided with that medical attention.

(29) (a) How often are fire drills conducted at the centre; and (b) can records be provided of fire drills so far in 2002 and their duration.

(30) Can a copy of the so-called log of claims developed by detainees at a recent hunger strike be provided.

(31) (a) What is the status of each claim; (b) which of these claims have been implemented; and (c) which were not implemented and why.

(32) Was a representative of the department present at the meeting which the log of claims was discussed.

(33) With reference to a booklet produced by the Australasian Correctional Management there is a warning about injuries that can be caused by strap wire: can details be provided of (a) this device; and (b) what that advice is.

(34) What is the routine or the requirement with regard to informing detainees about the circumstances in which the accommodation charge will be made of them, that is, detainees being told that they will incur a debt and not being given advice that if, for instance, they are granted refugee status there is no debt.

(35) Can a copy of that advice be provided.

(36) What revenue was raised by accommodation charges at the Maribyrnong detention centre in the 2000-01 financial year.

(37) Are there any circumstances in which the accommodation debt is not waived where a detainee is given a residential visa.

Senator Ellison (Minister for Justice and Customs) —The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) (a) & (b) There are three headcounts per day conducted at meal times for the convenience of detainees. During these headcounts, detainees are required to show their identity cards. In addition, a maximum of two further headcounts are conducted at random times. For security purposes, it is necessary for these checks to be random.

From time to time, where there are concerns about health or wellbeing of individuals, detainees will be placed on an observation routine in addition to normal head count procedures. In some instance, detainees are accommodated in observation rooms for that purpose, in others they will remain in general accommodation but staff will be required to check on their wellbeing at specific intervals, for example, 15 minute or half-hourly observations.

(2) Records solely relating to headcounts are not kept. Times of headcounts are logged in the Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) Shift Supervisor's handbook. The ACM Shift Supervisor's handbook is a hand written continuous document and therefore, may not be useful for the purposes of answering this question. However, should you wish to see a copy of selected days, the Department can arrange to have copies forwarded to you.

(3) This information is highly sensitive, confidential and private information and is therefore not appropriate to provide in this format. However, I am prepared to supply this information in a private briefing.

(4) Any use of medication in Immigration Detention Facilities must be prescribed by appropriate medical professionals in accordance with the relevant Australian medical and legal requirements.

There is a provision in the Migration Regulations allowing for the use of reasonable force, including the use of sedation, for the purpose of giving non-consensual medical treatment to a detainee where:

· the medical treatment is authorised by the Secretary;

· the Secretary is acting on the written advice of a medical practitioner; and

· the Secretary has formed the opinion that a detainee needs medical treatment because there is a serious risk to their life or health.

(5) A nurse administers the medication during the day and a Supervisor takes on this role throughout the evening as required. If a detainee refuses to take medication, a note is made in their file and the matter is pursued by the medical staff.

(6) (a) Incident reports, medical records and statistical data regarding incidents of self harm attempts are maintained. Self harm is described as self inflicted injury or the act of causing harm to oneself (includes cutting of body parts, voluntary starvation, etc).

(b) Records of self harm attempts are highly sensitive, confidential and private and are therefore not appropriate to provide in this format. It can, however, be supplied in a private briefing.

(7) There is no limit on the number of blankets that can be issued by ACM to a detainee at any one time.

(8) Detainees are permitted to receive and use additional blankets from visitors. Detainees are permitted two additional blankets each. The quantity is limited to facilitate storage arrangements when blankets are not in use.

(9) There had been problems with the heating system which resulted in some areas of the centre being affected. There was a period of two days in May when the heating pumps failed and the heating system was not operational.

(10) (a) The heating is now fully operational.

(b) The heating takes time to warm up, so once it has been turned on at the start of the cold weather, it remains on 24 hours a day until it is turned off at the end of the cold weather. The temperature is controlled by thermostats.

The heating is operational in all areas of the centre except the bathrooms, the recreational room and three family rooms. The three family rooms have oil filled column heaters.

Further to your question, there were several faults with the heating system during the period of 18-27 August 2002. All detainees were offered additional blankets.

The heating system is the original piped hot water system. The system is nearing the end of its economic life and has required regular maintenance during this winter. Options for replacement or refurbishment are being considered as part of the asset management plan for the centre.

(11) Most areas in the facility have doors, including the interview, short stay, observation, education, TV, laundry rooms, dormitories, toilets and family rooms and associated ensuites. Some of these have privacy locks, such as the toilets and family rooms.

The male shower blocks have cubicles with lockable doors. The female shower blocks have external doors and curtains for each cubicle.

One of the six-person dormitories has a door. The remaining sleeping accommodation comprises partitioned dormitories with two double bunks within each partitioned area. The partitioned areas do not have doors.

(12) The Immigration Detention Standards and the agreement between the Government and the Services Provider outline dignity and privacy requirements. Each detainee is required to be treated with respect and dignity and all information about detainees is treated in confidence. Information beyond that reasonably required for the detention of the individual and for the effective planning and supervision and the management of the detention facility is not collected or retained.

(13) All ACM Detention Officers and Correctional Officers complete Certificate III which is a nationally accredited program at Pre-Service Level. The Pre-Service Training consists of five core modules: the Organisation, Communication, Safety and Security, Offender Management and Occupational Health and Safety.

In the case of Correctional Officers, emphasis is placed on the Corrections Act, prisoner's rights and the relevant state legislation.

In the case of Detention Officers, emphasis is placed on the immigration context including multicultural awareness, torture and trauma, Immigration Detention Standards and Migration Legislation.

If Correctional Officers move to work in a Detention Centre, they undertake a 40 hour Bridging Program to cover the above areas and obtain a Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) specific orientation. In addition, all Detention Officers undertake 40 hours refresher training annually, which includes updating technical skills, communicating effectively with detainees, conflict resolution and cross-cultural awareness.

(14) Complaints may be made directly to the Services Provider or to DIMIA, either in person or in writing. Confidentiality is maintained at all times. Detainees may also make complaints to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) and the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

(15) At the time of your visit, there was no limit on the group size for women and children using the grassed area. Only six males were permitted access to the grassed area at any one time. This was put in place for security and operational reasons, as there were some operational difficulties with the fence, which was recently installed.

A review of the situation was conducted and groups of 25 detainees are able to access the area at any one time. The grassed area is available twice a day (one period in the morning and one in the afternoon - timing depends on detainee preferences) with two Detention Officers present.

(16) ACM has arranged for the mother to accompany her children to kindergarten except on occasions when escort officers are continuing on to another location.

(17) This information is highly sensitive, confidential and private and is therefore not appropriate to provide in this format. It can, however, be supplied in a private briefing.

(18) The detainee diagnosed with tuberculosis was removed from Australia in December 2001.

(19) The Department reports all notifiable diseases to Health Services Australia who instruct all appropriate action, which was followed.

(20) The Department reports all notifiable diseases to Health Services Australia who instruct all appropriate action, which was followed.

(21) Cut flowers are permitted at the centre.

(22) There is no rule that prevents visitors from taking notebooks and pencils into the visits area. These items can be given to detainees via the Services Provider.

(23) A copy of the rules that apply for visitors to the Maribyrnong IDC is at Document A below.

(24) The Detention Services Provider is required to provide visitor access in accordance with the ministerial direction under the Migration Act 1958 - Direction No. 20: Powers concerning the entry of visitors to immigration detention centres and the centre `Operating Manual'.

(25) Recreational activities are organised, taking into consideration the interests of the population, the availability of people to conduct the activities and the infrastructure of the centre. As a result, available activities are frequently changing. A schedule of recreational activities for June 2002 is provided at Document B below.

(26) There are no “rules” with regard to birthing mothers. However, pregnant women are required to give birth in the local hospital and have access to prenatal classes. All cases are assessed individually.

(27) The most recent birth at the centre was Saturday 15 June 2002. There were no other children in the family.

(28) The treating specialist has not recommended skin grafts for this person.

(29) (a) Fire drills are carried out periodically but not to any set timetable and follow the Metropolitan Fire Brigade guidelines (Victoria). There have been two fire drills conducted this year. The first fire drill took place on 27 March 2002 and the second on 30 August 2002.

(b) Records of the fire drills conducted at the Maribyrnong IDC are not always kept. A copy of the incident report detailing the fire drill conducted on 30 August 2002 is provided at Document C below.

(30)-(32) The Department is not aware of a written log of claims developed by detainees during a recent hunger strike. However, during a meeting between detainees and DIMIA, detainees raised a number of issues with the DIMIA representative, which were addressed during the meeting.

· Due to inaccessibility of the kitchen during the evening, can detainees take food and Coca Cola into their rooms?

Detainees are permitted to take snacks into their rooms on the condition that the food will fit into the plastic airtight containers which will be supplied by the kitchen. A maximum of six sealed cans of Coca Cola or one 2 litre bottle is also permitted in rooms.

· When will the drain in the courtyard be cleaned?

Detainees were informed that DIMIA would arrange for the drain to be cleaned within the week. This issue is now resolved.

· Why did it take one week for the washing machine to be repaired?

The repairer was waiting for spare parts. The machine is now working properly.

· Detainees often make requests and suggestions to the Operations Manager and nothing happens.

It was suggested to detainees that they select three detainee representatives who will attend the weekly meeting. The representatives were requested to supply a list of questions to management the day before the meeting so that management could be in a position to respond. The detainees were happy with the suggestion which has now been initiated.

· When would access to the grassed area commence?

Detainees were informed that there have been concerns with the security of the area and once the new security fence was operational, access to the courtyard would commence. Women and children commenced using the area on 14 May 2002. Males commenced using the area on 21 May 2002.

· Why have some visitors been banned?

Detainees were advised that visitors are subject to rules and should these rules be broken, visitors would be banned. When visitors have been banned, they are required to sign an undertaking that they will abide by the rules and access is regranted.

· Can toys be placed in the visits area?

Detainees were informed that this issue would be revisited as the toys previously in the visits area had been destroyed. Crayons and paper are now provided.

· The quality of food is poor and there has been a lack in water supply.

A meeting with the Kitchen Manager took place following this issue being raised. The lack of water supply was the result of a burst water main. Both issues have been resolved.

· Can a coffee vending machine and microwave be installed in the games room to alleviate mess?

Detainees were informed that this would not be appropriate, as there would be OH&S concerns with reheating food incorrectly and due to the high level of vandalism, companies would not supply further coffee machines. Detainees were also advised that they needed to be responsible for helping to keep this area clean.

· Can ACM Managers be available to talk with detainees each day?

Detainees were advised that this would not be possible due to the work pressures of the ACM Managers. However, detainees can approach a Manager when they are walking through the centre as well as submitting a request form.

· Some services are not available from telephones and can there be some clarification about who can read detainee faxes?

The telephone problems are a result of services provided by Telstra. Telstra was contacted and these problems have been rectified. Detainees were informed that an ACM Officer checks the fax machine and only reads the address.

· Some detainees have not been provided with the detainee booklet.

Detainees are provided with the booklet at induction. Further copies can be obtained from the Property Officer.

· Detainees are having difficulty accessing doctors after hours.

Detainees were informed that they are required to see the nurse in the first instance.

· Can Detainee Representative Meetings be held more frequently with less representatives to ensure that matters are resolved quickly?

Detainee Representative Meetings are held once a week with three detainee representatives present.

(33) (a) & (b) Security strap wire is a term used for all barbed security wire (this includes, razor wire, tiger tape, etc). On arrival at the centre, detainees are issued with the booklet and have the contents explained to them. The booklet is available in a variety of languages and interpreters are used if necessary.

The ACM booklet states,

“You should also note that there is in place in certain areas security strap wire which can cause injury if contacted.

Contact with the security strap wire will result in injury”

(34) While not a requirement under the Act, Departmental procedures state that a detained non-citizen should be informed they are liable for the costs of detention and removal from Australia. The contents of the form setting out the advice should be explained to the non-citizen through an interpreter, if necessary. There are separate processes and forms for those who have held a visa at some stage, that is, compliance cases, and for those who have arrived unlawfully without a visa (unauthorised air and boat arrivals).

During the period of detention, the non-citizen may be provided with an update of the debt incurred. At the conclusion of the period of detention, a final notice of the detention debt and removal costs (if applicable) may be served on the non-citizen. A person may remain liable for detention costs even if ultimately allowed to remain in Australia lawfully. This depends on the class of visa granted - see question 37.

(35) The Form `Your Detention' (Document D below) is provided to people who have held a visa at some stage within 24 hours of being detained. It is available in several languages.

The form `Notice of Detention Costs Incurred' (Document E below) is provided to detainees when leaving the centre with the exception of those who receive certain types of visas.

(36) The Department does not record debts at the level of accommodation charges or at the level of individual detention centre charges. The revenue recorded is for all centres for all debts to be recovered under the Migration Act 1958. The debt recorded for the financial year 2000-01 was $11.2 million. $263,301.00 was paid in 2000-01. This includes amounts for accommodation, fares, escorts and other minor costs eg passports.

(37) Departmental policy is that recovery action for the debt will not be pursued where:

· a person has been granted refugee status; or

· a non-citizen was reasonably suspected of being unlawfully present in Australia, was detained, but later was found to have been lawfully present; or

· a s200 deportee was detained, but the deportation order was revoked; or

· extenuating circumstances.

Although debts are not pursued, they are not normally formally waived. The formal approval for debt waiver is a matter for the Department of Finance and Administration. In some circumstances, individual applicants may seek a waiver of their debt but each case must be determined on its own merits.

Copies of documents A to E are available from the Senate Table Office.