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Allegations made on 'Lateline' program.



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Immigration Media Releases Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

| 2001 DIMA Releases | Full Media Release Index |

    Allegations Made on 'Lateline' Program DPS 10/2001

Following comments made on the ABC's Lateline program last night, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs today issued a statement in response to some issues.

A Departmental spokesman said the comments on Lateline were made following visits by the Parliamentary Human Rights Subcommittee to a number of Australia's immigration detention facilities this week.

The Department made the following points regarding the issues raised on the program:

There are two dentists in the Port Hedland area - one in private practice and one employed by the Government. Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) generally makes use of the dentist in private practice and detainees are seen on an appointment basis, the same as people in the general community. In the case of an emergency, the first available time slot is sought.

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During the Christmas period, while this dentist was on leave, a replacement was flown in by ACM for four days to attend to detainees' needs.

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The program referred to a family comprising a father and a 3-year-old child, in the context of discussions about a specific accommodation block within Port Hedland IRPC. There is no such family in that accommodation block nor was there on the day of the Subcommittee's visit. The family the Department believes was being referred to was in residence at Port Hedland some months ago for a short period. Allegations regarding the treatment of that family were first raised last year. They have been investigated and comprehensively refuted.

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Accommodation facilities at Port Hedland were affected by damage to three accommodation blocks caused by fires in November, which were deliberately lit by detainees, and other damage caused by detainees during the disturbance on 21 January.

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'Juliet' block at the Port Hedland facility is the last accommodation block to be refurbished in the Centre's refurbishment program. It is being used at this point because of a lack of availability in other accommodation areas due to fire and other damage.

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There were 29 detainees in 'Juliet' block the day of the Subcommittee visit. ■

There were 21 people in the upper area of 'Juliet' - the capacity is 32 in 16 rooms with a double bunk in each room. The detainees who were sharing three to a room in that area had specifically requested to do so because they were friends.

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This group of 21 had been in 'Juliet' for eight days when the committee visited. They had been moved there from their previous accommodation because they had been key participants in the violent disturbance at the Centre on 21 January, and were subject to ongoing investigations.

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While those investigations were continuing the rooms in that area were locked, but the detainees were able to leave their rooms for one to two hours each day either individually or in small groups.

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Seven of this group have since been identified as facing possible charges and until today remained in 'Juliet' block. The remaining 14 were returned to their previous accommodation on 31 January.

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There were also eight other detainees in this accommodation block, on the ground floor, at the time of the Subcommittee's visit. They were not involved in the disturbance on 21 January and as such were in a different section to the aforementioned group while awaiting removal from Australia. Their rooms were not locked; they were free to move around their accommodation area and had extended daily access to recreation and outdoor facilities.

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As repairs on other accommodation blocks have been completed today, the remaining 15 people (seven from upper J block and eight from the ground floor area) in 'Juliet' were moved to other accommodation blocks during the course of the day.

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2 February 2001 Media inquiries: DIMA Public Affairs, (02) 6264 2244 [Media Release Index]   [DIMA Home Page]

The Department operates a national telephone inquiry line on 131 881, for the cost of a