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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 3226

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (2:34 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. Is the minister aware of reports that aired on last night’s Lateline program referring to electronic weapons being used on asylum seekers detained in Australian funded Tanjung Pinang detention centre in Indonesia? If so, has the government made representations to the Indonesian government with regard to this?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I thank the senator for her question. Actually, I did see Lateline last night after arriving in Canberra.

Senator McGauran —Why don’t you go on it for once and explain yourself?

Senator CHRIS EVANS —I was on it the week before. You ought to tune in—but it is probably past your bedtime, I suspect! Way past your bedtime. I had the opportunity to see the show. For Senator McGauran’s information, there were allegations made about the inappropriate use of tasers at Tanjung Pinang detention centre in Indonesia. The first point I make in response to the senator’s question, of course, is that the Indonesian government is responsible for the operation of that detention centre. The decision to accommodate intercepted irregular migrants in those centres or the community is made by the Indonesian government. I saw this reporting, and clearly it is of concern if there is any inappropriate use of electronic devices on people in immigration detention. I understand from press reports that the head of the detention centre at Tanjung Pinang has denied the allegations and that he has been supported in that denial by Sri Lankan asylum seekers detained at Tanjung Pinang who have refuted those claims.

I have no personal knowledge of the matter. I have, however, asked my staff in Jakarta to make further inquiries about the issue, and when we have more information we will be in a better position to understand what is occurring. I stress that it is an Indonesian detention centre. We do support the Indonesian government in providing appropriate accommodation and support for detainees. We think that is a good thing. We encourage them to set higher standards in management of those centres, but at the end of the day it is their responsibility. (Time expired)

Senator HANSON-YOUNG —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The minister clearly outlined that these detention centres are under the management of the Indonesian government, but Australian taxpayer dollars are used in funding their operations and, indeed, even in training personnel who work within them. Surely, if Australian taxpayer dollars are being spent—government money is being spent—we have an interest in the way vulnerable people are treated. (Time expired)

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —Senator Hanson-Young is quite right to say that we have provided a lot of support for detention arrangements in Indonesia. It was initiated under the previous government and has been supported under this government. In fact, the previous government funded the construction of this detention centre; but a lot of what we provide is in the form of accommodation, food and emergency medical assistance as well as information for and counselling of intercepted irregular migrants about their migration options. That is all done through IOM; we fund them to provide those services. We have worked with Indonesia to improve their detention facilities and practices to try and make sure that they provide appropriate care given their limited financial capacity. We continue to work with the UNHCR to ensure that there are faster refugee status determinations, and so we are doing a lot of work to support proper management in Indonesia. (Time expired)

Senator HANSON-YOUNG —Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. Can the minister confirm whether there are human rights standards that are agreed upon between Australia and Indonesia, or indeed through the IOM, to ensure that people in these facilities are treated humanely?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I will say two things in response to that. The agreements between my department, DIAC, and IOM seek to underpin these arrangements, but they clearly have to be consistent with IOM’s mandate. It is a well respected international organisation and that mandate includes the requirement:

… to enhance the humane and orderly management of migration and the effective respect for the human rights of migrants in accordance with international law.

That underpins the agreements we have with the International Office of Migration, it underpins the way we operate and the way we also support the UNHCR in allowing people in Indonesia to access determination about their refugee status. So we have worked consistently with the Indonesian government to improve capacity and to improve support for asylum seekers in that country, and we will continue to do so because we think it is a good thing. (Time expired)