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Letter, Oct 6, 2020, from Director Regional Processing and Resettlement Department of Home Affairs for Minister Dutton

Dear Mr G......

Thank you for your correspondence of 27 July 2020 to the Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Alan Tudge MP, concerning refugees and asylum seekers in detention. Your correspondence has been referred to the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, as the matter raised falls within his portfolio responsibilities. The Minister appreciates the time you have taken to bring this matter to his attention and has asked that I reply on his behalf.

Regional processing is a key pillar of Operation Sovereign Borders and supports the Australian Government’s strong border protection policies. These policies have successfully stemmed the flow of illegal maritime ventures to Australia, disrupted people smuggling activities in the region and prevented loss of life at sea.

The success of Australia’s border protection policies has also enabled the Government to make a generous contribution to addressing the global humanitarian crisis, and increase our Humanitarian Program annual quota to 18,750 places. This represents the largest ongoing program in over 30 years.

Australia is committed to providing protection to refugees consistent with the obligations set out in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. Regional processing arrangements provide illegal maritime arrivals (IMAs) an opportunity to have their protection claims assessed, and for those found to be refugees, resettlement in a third country, without compromising Australia’s strong border protection policies.

People under regional processing arrangements are treated with respect and dignity, and in accordance with international human rights standards. Their protection claims are assessed by the Governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG), and are undertaken in accordance with each country's respective laws and processes.

No refugees under regional processing arrangements in Nauru or PNG are detained in immigration detention. Refugees reside in community accommodation arrangements and are free to move around without restriction.

Individuals under regional processing arrangements receive a range of services to support their stay in Nauru or PNG, including health and welfare, accommodation (rent and utility free), education and employment opportunities.

Medical services are provided through a range of healthcare professionals, including general practitioners, psychiatrists, counsellors, and mental health nurses who provide clinical assessment and treatment. Where clinically indicated, specialist medical treatment is not available in a regional processing country, mechanisms are in place for temporary transfers to a third country, including Australia, for assessment or treatment.

Australia appreciates the offer from the New Zealand Government to resettle refugees, however, we are focused on completing the much larger arrangement with the United States (US). Australia’s border protection policies have removed the incentive for people to join dangerous and illegal people smuggling ventures to Australia. The Government remains mindful of not undoing efforts to combat people smuggling.

The Australian Government’s strong border protection policies and associated management of transitory persons under regional processing arrangements has not changed – illegal maritime arrivals will not be settled in Australia. Consistent with this position, transitory persons brought to Australia from a regional processing country, whether for medical treatment or as accompanying family, are in Australia for a temporary purpose only.

Transitory persons under regional processing arrangements, including those temporarily in Australia, have permanent resettlement options and are being resettled. Transitory persons can seek to resettle in the US or another third country, settle in PNG, or voluntarily return home or to another country in which they have a right of entry. Transitory persons are encouraged to engage in third country resettlement options and take steps to start the next phase of their lives.

The Australian and US Governments remain committed to maximising resettlement opportunities under the US resettlement arrangement.

A total of 4,183 IMAs were transferred to offshore processing under the previous government. Today, there are no refugees in detention under offshore processing and as at 31July 2020, 803 refugees have been resettled under the Government’s resettlement arrangement with the US.

People transferred to and accommodated in immigration detention facilities (IDFs) including Alternative Places of Detention (APODs) are treated in accordance with human rights standards. The Government has contracted appropriately trained and experienced service providers to ensure detainees’ needs are adequately met, including provision of health and welfare services.

There are laws, policies, rules and practices that govern how people are treated in immigration detention facilities in Australia. The length and conditions of immigration detention are subject to regular internal and external review. Internal assurance and external oversight processes are in place to ensure that the health, safety and wellbeing of all detainees is maintained.

Scrutiny from a number of external bodies helps to ensure detainees held in immigration detention are treated humanely and fairly. These parties include parliamentary committees, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Red Cross.

The Department takes its duty of care seriously and ensures that all people in immigration detention have access to health care. Health care services for detainees are comparable to those available to the Australian community, under the Australian public health system. Services are provided through on-site primary and mental health clinics with referral to allied and specialist health providers, as required. Acute care is provided by hospitals.

The placement of an individual considers the safety and good order of the immigration detention network, operational capacity of each facility and the need to ensure the safety and security of all detainees in immigration detention.

Thank you for raising this matter with the Minister. Yours sincerely

Regional Processing and Resettlement Department of Home Affairs
6 October 2020 


Readers can comment below. 

" It is fair to conclude that acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has a deep contempt for the law.

What else could motivate him, when the Federal Court has just declared in explicit terms that he committed one form of contempt (wilful disobedience of court orders), to just double down on what the court may see as another -- the one it calls “scandalising the court”?

Bear in mind that Tudge’s original contempt was a triple: he refused to comply with an order by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to release a man from immigration detention, and then ignored orders by two Federal Court judges before finally relenting after five days of maintaining an imprisonment that was completely illegal." Crikey Oct 8, 2020

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