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Misinformation on mandatory detention.

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Misinformation on Mandatory Detention MPS 129/2000

The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock said today he was concerned about the misinformation being propagated on Australia's policy of mandatory detention of unlawful arrivals.

"To suggest that mandatory detention is 'Philip Ruddock's policy' demonstrates an appalling ignorance of facts and knowledge of Australian history," Mr Ruddock said.

"Legislation providing for mandatory detention was introduced in the early 1990s under a former Labor Government, while detention facilities at Pt Hedland and Curtin were commissioned under a former Labor Government.

"Australia's Migration Act requires that people who are unlawfully in Australia must be detained and that, unless they are granted permission to remain in Australia, they must be removed from Australia as soon as practicable.

"Detention ensures they remain available for removal, should they have no lawful right to remain, and if they do have a claim to stay, that assessments can be made on whether they pose a threat to the community, before they are released," Mr Ruddock said.

This practice is consistent with the fundamental legal principle, accepted in Australian and international law, that in terms of national sovereignty, the State determines which non-citizens are permitted to remain and the conditions under which they may be removed.

"Government commitment to mandatory detention was supported in 1994 by the Joint Standing Committee on Migration (JSCM) which examined the

appropriateness of the detention policy and alternative options," Mr Ruddock said.

"The findings of this report resulted in continued government commitment to mandatory detention.

"I would also urge caution on calls for unrestricted access to detention centres and detainees. Detention centres are not open to unrestricted access because of the need to protect potential refugees and the family and friends they have left behind," Mr Ruddock said.

"Should an asylum seeker be identified, it could give rise to claims which did not previously exist or leave family and friends open to retribution by the regime against which claims are being made.

"However, it is wrong to suggest detention centres are not scrutinised," Mr Ruddock said.

Scrutiny of facilities involves bodies such as the Commonwealth Ombudsman, HREOC, Parliamentary committees, MPs, Immigration Detention Advisory Committees, and non-government refugee organisations. Family, friends and lawyers representing detainees can also visit.

10 December 2000 Media Contact: Steve Ingram (02) 6277 7860

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