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Support for detention policy changes -

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Support for detention policy changes

The World Today - Tuesday, 29 July , 2008 12:14:00

Reporter: Eleanor Hall

ELEANOR HALL: Joining us now with his response is David Manne the co-ordinator of the Refugee and
Immigration Legal Centre in Melbourne.

David Manne thanks for being there.

As we've been hearing, the Government is making some changes that will mean that a majority of
asylum seekers will no longer be detained, how much of a difference will these changes make for the
sort of people that you act for?

DAVID MANNE: Oh it will make a profound difference. This really represents fundamental change in
detention policy in this country for such people, people fleeing from brutal tyranny often. The
change is really a fundamental one from mandatory indefinite detention of people without a valid
visa as the first option as if you like the presumption to really the very opposite and that is the
presumption being that as long as they don't pose any you know real risk to the community that
detention will be a last resort.

ELEANOR HALL: Mandatory detention will remain though for several categories, do you agree with

DAVID MANNE: Look any form of mandatory detention is potentially problematic, but certainly this is
a significant step forward in essentially identifying that there will need to be serious and
concrete limits to that detention and this is a very substantial step forward. Those limitations
based primarily on good reasons such as if someone poses a serious risk, are a major step forward
from the previous position.

ELEANOR HALL: The Government also says that children will no longer be detained and that there will
be a three monthly review of anyone who is in detention. Is that adequate?

DAVID MANNE: Certainly again, a very substantial step forward because the system previously was
represented a fundamental lack of transparency, fundamental lack of scrutiny and very little proper

This is again a major step forward in ensuring that people as a matter of course are not detained
indefinitely and languish there to be subject to certain harm.

ELEANOR HALL: When the Government says that it's now asking the immigration department to justify
why a person should be detained, how significant a shift is that?

DAVID MANNE: This is a very major shift because in the past really what we were looking at was a
system where as a matter of course, purely by reason of not having a valid visa, people were
essentially subject to mandatory and indeterminate detention. So to shift to a position where there
needs to be a concrete justification based on for example that the key issue about whether there's
a real risk in the community is a quantum leap from the past.

ELEANOR HALL: And of the 357 people now in detention, how many do you estimate will be allowed into
the community under these new rules.

DAVID MANNE: Look without knowing all of the cases of course, what stands to reason is that most
people in the past who have been detained including innocent asylum seekers don't pose any
discernible risk to the community and in fact very few people who have been detained in the past
could be said to pose any real risk to the community so on that basis, it's quite possible that
what we'll see is a release of a significant amount of people. But just as importantly those
arriving in the future who may be fleeing from tyranny will not be subject to ongoing mandatory and
indefinite detention where they languish in limbo.

ELEANOR HALL: And David Manne, is there enough support in the community to look after these people
if they are released?

DAVID MANNE: Oh absolutely, for some time structures have been, well developed structures have been
put in place for release into the community of people and in fact another very important thing to
note and that is detention centres have cost, have been exorbitant in terms of cost, so it's not
only the human cost which is again of course central, but the financial cost of immigration
detention centre. It'll be far cheaper and far more humane and just make basic commonsense to have
people in the community and there are well established structures in place for care of such people.

ELEANOR HALL: David Manne thanks very much for joining us.

DAVID MANNE: Thankyou.

ELEANOR HALL: That's David Manne, the co-ordinator if the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre in