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Summary of Observations following the Inspection of Mainland Immigration Detention Facilities 2007

Summary of

Observations following the Inspection of Mainland Immigration Detention

Facilities 2007


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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview of visits
  3. Recommendations
  4. Purpose of inspections
  5. Methodology for inspections
  6. Staff attitudes
  7. Length and uncertainty of detentoin periods
  8. Alternatives to detention centres
  9. Client Placement Model
  10. Children in detention
  11. Mental health care
  12. Physical health care
  13. Recreational activities
  14. Education programs
  15. Phones
  16. Purchasing Allowance Scheme (PAS)
  17. Food
  18. Interpreters
  19. Commission Posters
  20. Northern
  21. Villawood
  22. Maribyrnong
  23. Perth

1 Introduction

This report is a brief summary of the observations made

by the Human Rights Commissioner and staff of the Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission). These summary notes and recommendations are

based on what we personally observed and heard from staff and detainees during

our immigration detention facility inspections.

This report includes:

  • an overview of observations and recommendations arising

    from the inspections.

  • a description of the methodology for the

    inspections

  • a series of general observations relevant across all the

    immigration detention facilities

  • additional observations specific to individual

    immigration detention facilities.

The Commission has provided an opportunity to the

Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), and the private contractors

involved in detention centre services (GSL), to see an advance copy of this

summary. They have also been provided an opportunity to respond to our

observations and recommendations.

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2 Overview

of visits

In the Commission’s report on visits conducted during 2006,

we commented on the improvement in approach and attitude of DIAC and GSL staff

running immigration detention centres. In general, these improvements in

attitude remain evident during our 2007 visits.

In particular, the Commission commends DIAC and GSL on

substantial improvements made at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre

(NIDC). Many of the problems raised by the Commission in 2006 had been corrected by the

time of our visit in October 2007.

There have also been continuing efforts to improve the

physical environment and roll out much-needed refurbishments and renovations in

some centres.

In particular, refurbishments at Maribyrnong Immigration

Detention Centre (MIDC) create a much brighter and more pleasant environment.

The quality of accommodation at Sydney Immigration Residential Housing (SIRH)

and the new Perth Immigration Residential Housing (PIRH) is also

good.

The Commission is also pleased that the provision of internet

facilities has been improved, with reasonable access for most detainees in

detention, with the exception of NIDC. We hope that the roll-out of internet

facilities continues, including in the Immigration Residential Housing

(IRHs).

However, the Commission is greatly disappointed that there have

been no improvements to Stage 1 of Villawood Immigration Detention Centre

(VIDC). It remains the most prison-like of all facilities and it houses some of

the most long-term detainees. In our previous report we recommended that Stage 1

be demolished. We reiterate that recommendation in this report.

In addition, the Commission is disappointed that the external

excursions programs, which we praised highly at certain centres in our last

report, have been scaled back at all facilities, both in numbers and variety.

NIDC is the exception. While we acknowledge that NIDC currently holds a

different detainee population to other facilities, it is clear that the external

excursions program has greatly reduced tension within that centre and reduced

health and mental health complaints among detainees. In contrast, the suspension

of excursions in VIDC has led to substantial detainee unrest and

distress.

The Commission also reiterates its view that detainees are still

held in detention for too long. The IRHs, residence determinations and bridging

visas should be used more readily to help alleviate the serious health and

mental health issues which often arise from long term detention. It is

especially concerning that detainees themselves seem unaware of their various

options for placement under the Client Placement Model, and their rights to

request residence determinations.

The Commission has identified a range of areas for improvement

within each of the detention facilities. A comprehensive list of recommendations

arising out of the 2007 inspections follows.

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3 Recommendations

Mandatory detention and alternatives to

detention

  1. Australia’s mandatory detention laws should be

    repealed. The Commission has made this recommendation, and proposed alternative models,

    in its previous report on visits, and in various inquiries into immigration

    detention.[1]

    While

    detention may be acceptable for a short period in order to conduct

    security, identity and health checks, currently mandatory detention laws require detention for more than these purposes, for unlimited

    periods of time and in the absence of independent review of the need

    to detain.

    The Commission believes that any decision to detain a person

    should be under the prompt scrutiny of the judicial system. Further, there

    should be outer limits on the periods for which immigration detention is

    permitted.

  1. In the absence of repealing mandatory detention, there

    should be greater efforts to promptly (within three months) release or transfer

    people out of detention centres by:

    1. resolving substantive visa decisions
    2. releasing detainees on bridging or removal pending visas
    3. transferring detainees to residence

      determinations

    4. transferring detainees to places of alternative detention

      (in the event that (a) – (c) cannot be

      achieved).

Immigration

Residential Housing

  1. DIAC should increase the size and fully utilise the

    Sydney Immigration Residential Housing (SIRH) facility.

  2. DIAC should fully utilise the Perth immigration

    Residential Housing (PIRH)

    facility.

Residence

Determinations

  1. DIAC should make greater efforts to arrange residence

    determinations for all people who are detained for three months or more, in the

    absence of specific concerns about a serious flight risk or serious character

    issues.

  2. The Minister or DIAC should have discretion to vary the

    conditions of residence determinations so that detainees can engage in

    meaningful activities such as further education and training leading to

    occupational qualifications, and work, if

    appropriate.

Client placement model

  1. DIAC case managers should actively explore and discuss

    with each detainee the various bridging visa and alternative detention

    arrangements available to them (including residence determinations, alternative

    detention in the community and immigration residential housing

    options).

Children in detention

  1. Children with their families should only be detained in

    IRHs for a maximum period of four weeks. Unaccompanied children should only be

    detained in Immigration Residential Housing for a maximum period of two

    weeks.

  2. In the event that they are detained for longer than three

    weeks, DIAC should arrange some educational activities for juveniles detained at

    Darwin motels.

  3. DIAC should co-ordinate with the child welfare agencies

    over the care arrangements for unaccompanied minors in detention. Memoranda of

    Understanding (MOUs) should clarify the arrangements for the guardianship of

    unaccompanied minors. DIAC should ensure contact between an unaccompanied minor

    and the State welfare authority with responsibility for their welfare, whether

    in detention or released on a

    visa.

Mental health

care

  1. DIAC should not send detainees from Stages 2 or 3 in

    Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, to the Stage 1 Suicide and Self-Harm

    (SASH) observation rooms. Wherever possible, SASH observations should take place

    in the detainee’s immediate environments and close to medical

    staff.

Physical health

care

  1. DIAC should update detainees regularly as to the status

    of any requests for specialist treatment and any reasons why a referral has or

    has not been approved.

  2. DIAC should ensure prompt responses to recommendations

    made by doctors, especially where there are recommendations for external

    treatment.

Education and recreational

activities

  1. DIAC should continue a regular and varied excursions

    program for all detainees in immigration detention facilities, including those

    in IRHs. Detainees on s501 visa cancellations should not be automatically barred

    from participating in excursions.

  2. Perth Immigration Detention Centre and Maribyrnong

    Immigration Detention Centre should investigate the possibility of holding

    external soccer games for detainees who wish to participate. Villawood

    Immigration Detention Centre should permit Stage 1 detainees to regularly

    utilise the Stage 3 soccer field.

  3. DIAC should further upgrade gym facilities in Stage 1

    Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre

    and Perth Immigration Detention Centre. They should be enclosed to ensure

    privacy and accessibility in winter months.

  4. DIAC should continue to expand access to computers and

    internet facilities, including in Northern Immigration Detention Centre and

    Sydney Immigration Residential Housing.

  5. Villawood Immigration Detention Centre should explore

    options for detainee access to books. Options include: visits to a local

    library, visits by a local librarian and internet lending.

  6. DIAC should cease the policy which prohibits detainees

    from enrolling in courses leading to a qualification. DIAC should allow

    long-term detainees to enrol in substantive education courses at TAFE and other

    institutions, irrespective of whether it leads to a qualification.

    Enrolment could be by correspondence. However, DIAC should also consider

    permitting detainees to attend certain classes in person.

  7. DIAC should remove the cap on the number of points that

    can be earned in any month under the Purchasing Allowance Scheme (PAS). DIAC

    should consider a lay-by system for long term detainees so that detainees can

    buy larger items more

    gradually.

Food

  1. DIAC should explore alternative means of providing

    greater variety of meals, and autonomy in food choice. Some possibilities

    include activities kitchens (which were successful in Baxter IDC), cooking

    classes, special food nights and occasional take-away

    food.

Interpreters

  1. DIAC should, where possible, ensure the availability of

    permanent onsite interpreters when there is a large detainee population from a

    single language group. This is particularly relevant to Villawood Immigration

    Detention Centre with a large population of Mandarin-speaking detainees.

  2. DIAC should ensure that all official documents, including

    documents and notices about the operation of the centres, are provided in the

    main languages of the detainee population. Detainees should be able to request

    assistance in translating personal

    documents.

Commission

posters

  1. DIAC should ensure that Commission posters are posted clearly

    in all communal areas within detention facilities (including the visitors area),

    in both language versions provided by

    the Commission.

Infrastructure

  1. DIAC should demolish Stage 1, Villawood Immigration

    Detention Centre, and replace it with a new facility as a matter of priority.

  2. Renovations at Perth Immigration Detention Centre should

    take place promptly. The centre should be closed temporarily while renovations

    are taking place. Detainees should be transferred to alternative arrangements

    and be fully informed of the process in advance.

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4 Purpose

of inspections

The purpose of inspecting immigration detention

facilities is to monitor the conditions of immigration detention in Australia

for compliance with internationally-recognised human rights

obligations.

In addition to regular inspections of immigration

detention facilities, the Commission undertakes a range of activities aimed at ensuring

Australia meets its obligations to people in immigration detention. Information

about these activities can be found on the the Commission website (www.humanrights.gov.au).

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5 Methodology

for inspections

5.1 Schedule of inspections

The Commission visited all Australian mainland detention

facilities according to the following schedule:

Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (VIDC) &

Sydney Immigration Residential Housing (SIRH)

13-15 August 2007

Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre (MIDC)

(Melbourne)

4-5 September 2007

Perth Immigration Detention Centre (PIDC) & Perth

Immigration Residential Housing (PIRH)

17-18 September 2007

Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC)

(Darwin)

8-9 October 2007

Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (Brisbane

ITA)

19 November 2007

Baxter IDC (in Port Augusta, SA) was closed prior to our

scheduled visit there in August 2007.

In addition, the Commission visited six detainees who were, or

who had been, in community detention (under residence determinations) in

Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. These were

  • one unaccompanied minor (Sydney)
  • three families (Adelaide, Melbourne and

    Sydney)

  • one single man (Perth)
  • one single woman (Sydney).

The Human Rights Commissioner, Graeme Innes

AM, visited all the centres and several of the detainees in community detention.

The Commissioner was accompanied by one or two staff

members for all visits.

During the course of the visits there were two detainees

on Christmas Island. The Commission did not visit the Christmas Island facility due to

the small numbers of detainees. In the event that there are a significant number

of detainees on Christmas Island in the future, the Commission will contact DIAC to

arrange a visit to that facility.

The Commission did not visit the Offshore Processing Centre on

the Pacific island of Nauru. Under the previous government’s so-called

‘Pacific Solution’, unauthorised arrivals who arrive in

Australia’s ‘excised territories’ may be sent to the Offshore

Processing Centre on Nauru and kept there while their claims for protection are

assessed. In May 2007, the Human Rights Commissioner wrote to the former

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship requesting assistance in facilitating a

visit to Nauru’s Offshore Processing Centre. The Minister declined to

provide that assistance.

5.2 Program

during visits

Before each visit, DIAC provided relevant detainee

statistics to help Commission staff get a sense of the numbers and demographics of

the detainees.

The Commission engaged in the following activities during each of

the inspections:

  1. Tour and general inspection of the detention

    facilities.

  2. Interviews with relevant GSL and DIAC management

    staff.

  3. Separate interviews with:
    • (a) Health care staff
    • (b) Mental health care staff
    • (c) Education and recreation staff
    • (d) Kitchen staff.
  4. Lunch with detainees in the communal dining

    areas.

  5. Discussions with members of the detainee representative

    committee (where there is one).

  6. Individual interviews with any detainees wishing to speak

    to the Commission about their detention. (All detainees were informed in advance of

    the Commission’s visit and asked to indicate their interest in speaking to Commission

    staff. In addition, Commission staff approached detainees while touring the

    facilities.)

  7. Inspection of documents relevant to the systems in place

    to ensure the appropriate treatment of detainees in the facilities.

  8. Follow-up of any issues arising during the visits with

    GSL and DIAC management staff.

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6 Staff

attitudes

In general, the improvement in staff attitudes, which we

noted in the 2006 summary of observations, remained evident during our visits in

2007. DIAC and GSL staff appear open to requests, suggestions and concerns

voiced by detainees.

During our visits, Commission staff specifically asked

detainees about their treatment by detention staff. While there were a few

complaints about the attitudes of individual staff members, most detainees we

spoke to had no complaint about their treatment by GSL and DIAC staff

generally.

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7 Length

and uncertainty of detention periods

Despite efforts to improve the environment inside

immigration detention facilities, the fundamental problems with immigration

detention has not changed for detainees – namely, the length of detention

and the uncertainty about how much longer that detention will last.

Although alternative forms of detention are being

utilised, the majority of detainees are still held in detention centres, some of

them for years. For example, statistics provided to us by DIAC on 27 July 2007

show that of 231 immigration detainees at the VIDCC, 77 people had been in

detention for over a year.

We met detainees who expressed extreme frustration and

depression at the length of time they had been detained. It is inevitable that

this fact, combined with uncertainty of an outcome, leads to mental health

problems. As we mentioned in our 2006 summary of inspections, it does not take

years for mental health problems to begin.

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8 Alternatives

to detention centres

The Commission notes that there now exist a number of

alternatives to detention in immigration detention centres. A small, but

significant, number of detainees are able to access these alternative forms of

detention. Of these alternatives, the Commission was able to visit the IRH centres, one

Immigration Transitional Accommodation facility, a small selection of people on

Residence Determination arrangements, as well as some juveniles held in

alternative detention arrangements.

8.1 Immigration

Residential Housing

IRHs (previously named Residential Housing Centres) aim

to provide family-style housing where detainees can experience greater autonomy.

Detainees can prepare and cook their own food and make shopping trips and other

excursions under the supervision of the detention services provider.

There are two IRHs currently in operation:

  • SIRH, which opened in 2006, continues to operate adjacent

    to the VIDC, in Sydney.

  • PIRH, in the suburb of Redcliffe in Perth, opened early

    in 2007.

At the time of our visits, there were 21

people detained at SIRH (14 August 2007) and four people at PIRH (18 September

2007).

The IRH in Port Augusta, SA, closed in August 2007 (as

did Baxter IDC). There are no IRH’s in Melbourne, Darwin or Brisbane.

8.1.1 Sydney

Immigration Residential Housing (SIRH)

SIRH consists of five houses in a row, each split into

two mirror-image homes. One side of the house has one double bedroom, storage

area, bathroom and dining/living area. The other side has two bedrooms, a

bathroom and dining/living area. The two sides share a common kitchen. They also

share an outside ‘garage’ area where visitors are allowed to meet

detainees. One house is accessible for people with disabilities.

The facilities are comfortable, although the common

kitchen area is a little cramped. The houses face a long garden strip with a

playground, newly planted trees and an open double garage with couches, TV, ping

pong table and BBQ.

In principle, the facility can hold 40 people, although

in order to accommodate different needs, there are usually fewer people

there.

8.1.2 Perth

Immigration Residential Housing (PIRH)

PIRH consists of two separate houses, which share a

common courtyard and garden area. Each house has five bedrooms, which can

accommodate up to ten people altogether, although much fewer detainees are

usually accommodated there. The bedrooms surround two living areas and a very

large kitchen/dining area. One house is accessible for people with disabilities.

The facilities are comfortable and bright, with an

outlook onto the garden. The houses are situated in a regular suburban street,

backing onto an open field.

8.1.3 Conditions

in the Immigration Residential Housing

The IRHs are undoubtedly softer detention environments

than detention centres. Detainees we spoke to in the two IRHs were much happier

in these facilities than the detention centres, due to the greater freedom,

privacy and contact with outside community.

However, it is important to remember that the IRHs are

still detention facilities. People are not free to come and go as they please,

and must be accompanied by detention staff when they visit external

sites.

The Commission observed the following issues specific to the two

IRHs:

  • The IRHs do not seem to be used to their full

    capacity.

  • As almost all activities at the IRHs are external.

    Internal activities are limited, especially at SIRH. When external activities

    are restricted for operational reasons, or for reasons specific to certain

    detainees (as was the case with four detainees in the SIRH at the time of our

    visit), they are left with fewer activities than if they were in the detention

    centre (see section on excursions below).

  • Internet facilities had not yet been fully rolled out in

    IRHs at the time of our visit.

  • There are some difficulties accommodating men, women and

    families in shared or group houses. If an argument between detainees occurs, the

    size and arrangement of the IRHs may limit the flexibility of placing detainees

    apart from each other. This is particularly the case at PIRH, where there are

    only two houses.

DIAC should increase the size and fully

utilise the SIRH facility.

DIAC should fully utilise the PIRH

facility.

8.2 Immigration

Transit Accommodation facilities

The Immigration Transit Accommodation facilities (ITAs)

aim to provide temporary accommodation to people who will be spending a short

time in detention or are a low security risk before they are transferred to

other centres or returned home.

The Brisbane ITA at Pinkenba opened on 1 November 2007.

The Commission inspected the ITA on 19 November 2007.

At the time of our visit there were no detainees in the

facility. However, since its opening two weeks previously, 13 detainees had been

detained at the ITA. These were all short term detainees, made up of airport

arrivals, visa overstayers and a number of people whose visas had been cancelled

under s501 of the Migration Act 1958 (the Act), in transition to other

facilities or due for imminent removal.

Detainees can only remain at the Brisbane ITA for an

initial seven days, and a total of fourteen days maximum. Detainees who are s501

visa cancellations are not expected to stay longer than 24 hours maximum.

The Brisbane ITA consists of three accommodation blocks,

each with five rooms (most with two beds) with ensuites, a kitchen/dining/living

room and laundry facilities.

The centre is surrounded by a perimeter fence of low to

medium height, similar to a pool fence, with infra red line alarm system. The

facility is low-security. Only two GSL officers are regularly stationed day and

night at the centre. Detainees receive key cards to access their bedrooms, with

locked cupboards for their belongings.

Pre-prepared food is provided by GSL officers. There are

large outdoor spaces including a new basketball court, DVDs and internet

facilities. A nurse is currently on site three times a week.

In general, it appears the ITA is a satisfactory

facility for transitional accommodation. The Commission will monitor detainee conditions

at the ITA during the course of our routine inspections, when the ITAs have

become fully operational.

ITAs are also planned for Melbourne and Adelaide. The

ITA in Melbourne will accommodate up to 30 people and construction is due to be

completed by the end of 2007.

8.3 Alternative

detention

Alternative detention (ALTDET) includes people detained

in private houses, hospitals, motels, correctional facilities, watch houses,

apartments and foster care. Detainees in alternative detention must be

supervised by a ‘designated person’. DIAC statistics show that there

were 21 people (16 men, four women and one child) in alternative detention as at

26 October 2007.

During the 2007 inspections, Commission staff visited 12

Indonesian juveniles and one minder/adult detainee in alternative detention in

Darwin. They are held at a Darwin motel during their short period of detention

(see section below on Children).

8.4 Residence

determinations

In June 2005, the Act was amended to give the Minister

the power to make a ‘residence determination’ for individual

detainees to be able to live in the community at specified locations.

As at 2 November 2007, 206 detainees have been granted

residence determinations.

Often called ‘community detention’,

residence determination arrangements were primarily conceived to remove children

and families from the inappropriate detention environment. However, residence

determinations can also be made for individual adults.

The Commission visited five people subject to residence

determinations (three families with children and two individuals), and one

unaccompanied minor who had been recently subject to a residence determination.

The Commission also spoke to DIAC staff about the arrangements under residence

determinations.

8.4.1 Detainee

conditions under residence determinations

Detainees on residence determination are permitted to

live unsupervised in the community. However, detainees are required to abide by

a standard set of conditions. Generally they must live at a specified address

and report to DIAC regularly. They cannot engage in paid work. These conditions

may be modified by the Minister in each individual instance.

The Australian Red Cross (ARC) are contracted by DIAC to

provide primary community and welfare support for people on residence

determinations. This includes accommodation, schooling for children, child care

arrangements, access to health care and linking them to English classes.

Accommodation
ARC

rents apartments or houses for detainees on behalf of DIAC. ARC attempts to

situate the detainees in locations which are familiar or close to community

contacts. While it is not easy to find the right accommodation, all detainees we

spoke to seemed reasonably satisfied with their placement.

Living

allowance

ARC also provides detainees with

a living allowance, which is transferred automatically into a bank account for

the detainee to access as needed. The detainees pay for basic living expenses

such as food, electricity and phone bills, out of their living allowance.

Detainees reported that the living allowance was satisfactory, although it was

not sufficient for bigger purchases such as televisions. Most detainees had

these bigger items donated by the ARC or friends.

ARC also assists detainees with any of the basic

essentials they may need, such as furniture and kitchen equipment.

Health

services

Detainees were satisfied with

their access to physical and mental health services. Detainees do not have

access to Medicare. However, their medical expenses are paid for by ARC. In one

case ARC helped to arrange medical requirements necessary for the birth of a

child. In another case, ARC arranged for counselling.

8.4.2 Benefits

of residence determinations

In general, detainees on residence determinations we

spoke to were happy with their living arrangements. They also reported that ARC

staff were helpful and looked after their

needs.

All detainees

we spoke to said that residence determinations were significantly better than

being detained in IDCs or IRHs. Most important was the opportunity to engage in

community life, the ability to provide a normal living environment for their

children, and the privacy and freedom from supervision.

Children in particular benefit from the freedom of

community detention. They are able to attend school and engage in community life

along with their parents. Although it appears that children, like their parents,

cannot travel and cannot have other children stay at their houses without DIAC

permission, in most other respects they are able to lead a normal

life.

The Commission believes that if a person must remain in

detention, then residence determinations are the best of the alternative

detention arrangements. This is because residence determinations offer freedom

to engage in the community and provide relative autonomy to the individuals in

question.

The Commission reiterates the comments we made about residence

determinations in the 2006 summary of observations. We urge DIAC to make greater

efforts to arrange residence determinations for all people who are detained for

three months or more. The only qualification to this recommendation may be where

the person is a demonstrated high security or public health

risk.

8.4.3 Some

concerns raised by detainees on residence determination

Despite the general satisfaction among detainees we

spoke to with the conditions of residence determinations, there were some common

issues raised:

  • Several detainees said they would like to be able to work

    to support the family themselves, and to be able to engage in meaningful

    activities. Detainees who are already trained wish to utilise their skills.

  • Several detainees also expressed a desire to study for a

    qualification in order to prepare for the future. At present detainees on

    residence determinations can attend English classes and community education

    classes, but are not permitted to study for a qualification. Considering some

    detainees have been on residence determinations for several years, it would be a

    valuable use of time to study for a qualification, or a module leading to a

    qualification, while awaiting a decision on their applications.

  • Despite general satisfaction with the conditions under

    residence determination, detainees expressed anxiety and depression about their

    uncertain future, especially parents. This caused sleeplessness. In several

    cases individuals were accessing mental health services.

The Commission recommends that the Minister or DIAC

have discretion to vary the conditions of residence determinations so that

detainees can engage in meaningful activities such as further education and

training leading to occupational qualifications, and work, if

appropriate.

8.4.4 Eligibility

criteria for residence determinations

The eligibility criteria for referral to the Minister

for residence determinations are specified under draft Guidelines on the

Minister’s Detention Intervention Powers (Sections 197AB and 195A of the

Act). The Commission commented on a draft of these Guidelines in March 2006. The Draft

Guidelines are still awaiting finalisation. In the meantime, the Draft

Guidelines guide DIAC’s assessment of individual cases for referral to the

Minister.

The Draft Guidelines specify circumstances which a

detainee may be referred to the Minister for residence determination. These

are:

  • minor children and their families
  • unaccompanied minors
  • an adult with special needs that cannot be cared for in

    detention

  • an adult with unique and exceptional circumstances such

    that failure to recognise them would result in hardship and harm to an

    Australian citizen or Australian family unit

  • torture and trauma background.

However, the majority of people who have

received residence determinations have been families with children and

unaccompanied minors. As at 31 October 2007, there were 48 people living in the

community on residence determinations, of which 21 were children with their

families and five were unaccompanied minors.

Smaller numbers of single adults have been referred for

residence determination for special needs, torture and trauma issues or

exceptional circumstances.

During the visits, the Commission met many adult detainees who

would benefit greatly from a residence determination. In some cases this may

have helped prevent an escalation of mental health problems.

Given that the public interest principle is guiding the

exercise of the Minister’s discretion in these cases, the Commission thinks that

these criteria unduly restrict the ability of DIAC to refer adults for residence

determination. It is unclear why the circumstances for the exercise of the

discretion need to be ‘unique’ or ‘exceptional

circumstances’.

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9 Client

Placement Model

Since the Commission’s visits in 2006, DIAC has trialled a

Client Placement Model throughout immigration detention.

The Client Placement Model allows detainees to be

assessed at entry point, and throughout their detention, for placement in an

appropriate detention setting. That is, whether to place them in a particular

detention centre, an ITA, an IRH, alternative detention or refer them for

residence determination. The initial placement form includes questions on a

range of factors such as mental and physical health, community support,

immigration pathway, criminal background and family contacts. These are taken

into account in assessing the risk of each detainee and the appropriate

placement. Client placement also takes into account operational

requirements.

At VIDC we were told that an initial detainee placement

should be reviewed within 48 hours. Following this initial assessment there is

also review within a week, and then quarterly unless there is a

‘trigger’. A ‘trigger’ can come from a variety of

sources; for example, the detainee, GSL, detention officers or health services.

We were informed that placements or transfers do not

happen against a detainee’s wish unless the placement is a result of

security concerns or when a detainee is moved from the community into the IDC.

At VIDC we were also told that there has been no general

education of detainees about the Client Placement Model because it is still in

trial form.

However, the Commission observed that some detainees were unaware

of the various client placement options.

The Commission urges DIAC to ensure that DIAC case managers

actively explore and discuss with each detainee the various alternative

detention arrangements available to them (including residence determinations,

alternative detention in the community and immigration residential

housing).

Although in trial stage, staff informed the Commission that the

Client Placement Model works well and ensures that a range of factors are

considered in the placement of a detainee, and in reviews of detainee

placements.

The Commission expects to have an opportunity to examine the

Client Placement Model more closely when it is fully operational.

Toptop

10 Children in detention

Following amendments to the Act in 2005, families and

children were released from immigration detention facilities, either on bridging

visas or on residence determinations. The Commission welcomed these amendments, which

have allowed most families with children in detention to be accommodated within

the community.

However, it should be noted that children and their

families are still detained in the IRHs and in alternative detention for varying

periods of time. Further, children and families on residence determinations are

still in immigration detention as defined under the Act, and must meet any

conditions of their particular residence determination. The power to make a

residence determination for a child and their family lies with the Minister

only.

10.1 Length of time in IRHs

The Commission spoke to several families with children who had

been in detention in an IRH. While in some cases there appears to have been

speedy action to release a child into community detention, or onto a visa, there

are still cases where a child may spend several months in detention in an IRH.

For example, in one case a family with a small child,

who had previously been living in the community without visas, was detained in

an IRH for two months before they were given a residence determination. The

father told us that he had been concerned about the effect of the detention on

his daughter, who was distressed at being surrounded by strangers. His wife was

also pregnant.

The Commission recommends that children should only be

detained in IRHs for a maximum period of four weeks. Unaccompanied children

should only be detained in an IRH for a maximum period of two weeks.

10.2 Detention

of juveniles at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre

In our 2006 summary of observations we noted problems

with the detention arrangements in Darwin for Indonesian juveniles found on

illegal fishing boats.

These problems included:

  • exposure to the adult detention centre environment at the

    NIDC

  • lack of child welfare qualifications of carers or

    minders

  • lack of education or recreational activities for

    children.

We recommended a number of

changes to accommodate these children better during their period of detention in

Darwin.

We are pleased to report that many of these

recommendations appear to have been implemented by the time of our visit on 8-9

October 2007.

10.2.1 Accommodation

for juveniles

At the time of our 2006 visit, juveniles were

accommodated at a Darwin motel at night time, but otherwise spent all their

meals and waking hours inside the detention centre without any special programs

or services.

The Commission recommended that DIAC establish alternative places

of detention for the juveniles, in the community, and provide them with special

services. In 2007, DIAC continues to use a motel

for detaining juveniles found on illegal fishing boats. However, juvenile

detainees are now kept at the motel throughout the day as well as the night, and

are provided with special activities on and off-site. Nine motel rooms are

booked by DIAC on a permanent basis. The rooms are in a corner of the motel and

there is an outdoor area available for them all to sit. They have rearranged the

rooms so that there are four single beds to a motel room. Generally, juveniles

from the same crew stay in the same room together.

One of the motel rooms has been converted into a

recreation room with a TV, Xbox, games etc (ie no beds). A second motel room has

been converted into an officer’s station.

There is also a pool at the motel which they can use

under supervision.

All food is delivered from the NIDC and eaten at the

motel.

10.2.2 Child

welfare-qualified carers

In 2006 we noted that there was no one on-site at the

NIDC with child welfare qualifications, which is of concern when a number of

juveniles arrive without parents or family members.

At that time we were told that juveniles were appointed

adult ‘minders’ amongst the detainees, based on relationships that

they already have with crew members on the fishing boat. These

‘minders’ were to stay with juveniles at a Darwin motel. However,

without an officer or staff member with special training in child welfare, we

were concerned about the proper safeguards for children to be cared for in the

detention environment.

However, since 2006, NIDC have made efforts to provide

appropriate supervision for the juveniles.

Firstly, as discussed above, juveniles are no longer

spending periods in the day at the detention centre.

Secondly, a Youth Officer with child welfare experience

and qualifications is employed at the motel five days a week (9am-5pm), and

occasionally on weekends, to arrange activities.

Further, NIDC have developed internal guidelines for

conducting a Minor and Minder Identity Interview (CS4.00: Minor and Minder

Identity Interview). This interview is to determine whether a

‘minder’ nominated by Customs is the appropriate person to continue

to be the minder of a minor while in detention at the motel.

The Commission hopes these guidelines assist NIDC appoint a

suitable ‘minder’ for a juvenile. However, the guidelines do not

make it clear who conducts the interviews of minders and minors. The Commission suggests

that those with child welfare or child psychology experience may be best

experienced to undertake these interviews.

The Commission also notes that there still does not appear to be

any coordination with the Northern Territory child welfare agency for

unaccompanied children.

10.2.3 Recreation

and education

The Commission is pleased that since our last visit to the NIDC,

DIAC and GSL have organised a full activities schedule for the juveniles. The

young people can go out, voluntarily, at least once a day on some type of

excursion or activity. These are arranged for juveniles only. Each Wednesday the

excursions overlap with adult detainee activities, so as to provide

opportunities for young people to meet with other crew members outside the

centre.

External excursions include beach sports, beach walking,

Botanic Gardens, bush walking, city bus tours, Crocodylus Park, Indoor Soccer,

kite flying, mini golf, Museum and ten-pin bowling, among others.

Recreational activities on-site include art equipment,

board games, craft items, DVDs, playstations and playstation games and the use

of sports equipment. The Youth Officer has just obtained his Bronze Medallion,

which means that he can also supervise the juveniles in the motel swimming

pool.

DIAC informs us that the focus of activities at the

NIDC, including the motel, is on sports and recreational activities rather than

educational activities, as removal of Indonesian fisher people is sought as soon

as practicable.

The Commission recommends that, in the event that they are

detained for longer than three weeks, DIAC should arrange some educational

activities for juveniles detained at Darwin motels.

10.3 Care of unaccompanied minors

During our inspections, Commission staff spoke to one

unaccompanied minor in Sydney who had recently been released from community

detention onto a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV).

This juvenile was released into the community on a

residence determination within two weeks of his arrival, following two weeks

detained in an IRH.

The Commission commends DIAC for his quick release into community

detention.

However, we are concerned that at the time of our

meeting, the unaccompanied minor was unaware of any contact with state child

welfare agencies, either prior to his release, or following his release onto a

Temporary Protection Visa. This was of particular concern as he had decided to

move to WA with very limited English and few contacts in Perth. We later heard

that contact was made.

The Commission considers that there needs to be better

coordination and clarification of the roles and responsibilities of DIAC and

state child welfare authorities for unaccompanied minors in community or

alternative detention. The role of state welfare agencies needs to be clarified,

and communicated effectively to the minors and their advocates.

The Commission notes the existence of Memoranda of Understanding

(MOUs) with South Australian and Western Australian welfare agencies, covering

guardianship responsibilities for unaccompanied minors in detention. However, a

smaller number of unaccompanied minors have also been placed into alternative

detention in NSW, Victoria and NT. There do not seem to be any other completed

formalised arrangements for guardianship and care of unaccompanied minors in

other states. Further, the Commission is unsure whether residence determinations are

covered under the SA MOU, which was drafted prior to their introduction in 2005.

If children are unaccompanied, then DIAC should

co-ordinate with the child welfare agencies over the care arrangements for

unaccompanied minors in detention. Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) should

clarify the arrangements for the guardianship of unaccompanied minors. DIAC

should ensure contact between an unaccompanied minor and the State welfare

authority with responsibility for their welfare, whether in detention or

released on a visa.

Toptop

11 Mental health care

Mental health services for detainees are provided by a

private company, Professional Support Services (PSS).

Overall, the provision of mental health services in

detention centres appears to have improved over the past few years.

In particular, mental health staff reported as

follows:

  • The newly introduced system of routine mental health

    assessments has greatly improved the capacity of mental health services to

    identify and treat mental illness (although these are not conducted on detainees

    at NIDC nor at Brisbane ITA to date).

  • Mental health staff recommendations or referrals are

    generally treated seriously by DIAC staff.

However, the problems of long term detention

continue to have an impact on the mental health of detainees. It is still not

possible to properly treat the mental health problems suffered by most

immigration detainees. This is because the main way to treat a mental health

concern is to remove the primary cause of the problem. In the case of

immigration detainees, detention and uncertainty are amongst the main causes and

they cannot usually be addressed by the mental health

professionals.

It is for this reason that the Commission recommends the

repeal of Australia’s mandatory detention laws. The Commission has made this

recommendation, and proposed alternative models, in its previous report on

visits, and in various inquiries into immigration

detention.[2]

While detention may be acceptable for a short period

in order to conduct security, identity and health checks, currently mandatory

detention laws require detention for more than these purposes, for unlimited

periods of time and in the absence of independent review of the need to

detain.

The Commission believes that any decision to detain a person

should be under the prompt scrutiny of the judicial system. Further, there

should be outer limits on the periods for which immigration detention is

permitted. In the absence of repealing

mandatory detention, there should be greater efforts to promptly (within three

months) release or transfer people out of detention centres by:

  1. resolving substantive visa

    decisions

  2. releasing detainees on bridging or removal pending

    visas

  3. transferring detainees to residence

    determinations

  4. transferring detainees to places of alternative

    detention (in the event that (a) – (c) cannot be

    achieved).

There are also some specific concerns related to mental

health care outlined in the following sections.

11.1 SASH

observation areas

The SASH system, which we discussed in our 2006

observations, is still in operation at all the centres in 2007. The SASH system

provides a close monitoring mechanism for people at risk of self-harm or

suicide.

Under the SASH system, those detainees at great risk are

observed by detention officers constantly while those at less risk are monitored

less closely. The detention officers on ‘SASH-watch’ must fill out

log sheets which report their observations of the detainees at specific time

periods. Those logs are used by mental health teams to assess the need for

therapeutic intervention. The mental health services also train detention

officers in how to conduct SASH observations.

While the method of implementing SASH observations

– especially for high risk detainees – differs by centre, in general

those who are deemed in need of constant observation (maintaining visual contact

with the detainee) are transferred into observation rooms or specialised units

for that purpose. The ‘observation’ areas differ by

centre.

At MIDC, there are two private observation rooms in Zone

C, with access to a private courtyard and a small day room, so that detainees

can move out of the rooms. We were told that the rooms have been used about six

times in the past 12 months, for management purposes as well as for constant

SASH watch.

At PIDC, there are three rooms that can operate as

observation rooms. One is a ‘hard’ observation room with less risk

of self-harm, and another two are with softer furnishings. One of these softer

observation rooms is adjacent to, and can be viewed from the medical offices. We

were told that only two detainees had been placed in the observation rooms in

the past nine months.

At NIDC, people on constant SASH observation are kept in

a separate smaller compound where detainees can walk around freely but are

observed by cameras. The rooms are furnished without hanging points. We were

told that the last time this compound was used for SASH was in April 2007.

At VIDC, detainees in need of constant observation are

held in the four observation rooms in Stage 1. There are no observation rooms in

Stage 2 or 3, which means that detainees must be moved to Stage 1 for constant

observation.

The Commission is concerned with this practice of transferring

detainees to Stage 1 for observation. We were told that as Stage 1 is a

completely separate and secure facility, where ‘high risk’ detainees

are held, detainees view the move as punitive. This may discourage referrals for

SASH among detainees and staff.

Furthermore, the medical staff are situated in Stage

2/3, and are therefore not able to supervise observation in Stage 1 as closely.

It also means that officers who are not familiar with a detainee’s usual

presentation are conducting the SASH observations.

The Commission reiterates its comments made at the time of the

2006 visit: Stage 1, VIDC, is not an appropriate place to put detainees with

serious mental health risk.

DIAC should not send detainees from Stages 2 or 3

(VIDC), to the Stage 1 SASH observation rooms. Wherever possible, SASH

observations should take place in the detainee’s immediate environments

and close to medical staff.

We were also informed that the SASH Protocol is

currently under review, as recommended by the Detention Health Advisory Group.

DIAC has contracted Monash University Forensic Care to conduct the review, which

is expected to be completed by December 2007.

The Commission awaits the results of this review with

interest.

11.2 Mental health referrals

In general, mental health staff reported that their

referrals to external mental health facilities and services are taken seriously

by DIAC. For example, two detainees from MIDC were referred to a mental health

hospital in Toowong, Queensland on the recommendation of mental health staff. On

the other hand, several detainees told the Commission that they been waiting for an

extended period of time for a referral to be acted on.

The Commission urges DIAC centre executives to continue to treat

seriously recommendations and referrals by both internal and external mental

health practitioners. We also urge that referrals for mental health assessment

and treatment to be acted on as quickly as possible.

Toptop

12 Physical health care

Physical health services at all immigration detention

centres are contracted out to International Health Medical Services (IHMS). All

of the detention centres have a IHMS nurse on-site Monday-Friday, with on-site

access to GPs at certain clinic times. Hence, detainees appear able to see a

nurse on the day that they have a complaint, but may have to wait several days

to see a doctor unless it is an emergency. For emergencies, detainees are taken

to external hospitals.

Detainees are taken by detention service officers to see

external specialists, for example dentists, optometrists and

physiotherapists.

The Commission heard some complaints from detainees about delays

in accessing external specialist health services. For example, a detainee told

us he had been waiting for an eye operation for months. The Commission acknowledges that

detainees may have to wait for non-urgent medical appointments, as do others in

the community. However, as detainees do not have the ability to seek out their

own medical services, delays can be especially frustrating. Detainees also told

the Commission that they wanted to know what stage their request was up to.

Since the introduction of Detention Health, a

centralised unit within DIAC for dealing with health issues in detention, there

appears to be better coordination of the approval process for specialist medical

services for detainees. However, some detainees still seemed unsure of the

reason for the delay in accessing specialist medical services in their case.

In the case of PIRH and SIRH, all health services are

provided by external physicians. It appears that this process operates smoothly.

However, detainees may still experience delays in getting approval for referrals

to a specialist facility.

The Commission recommends that DIAC should update detainees

regularly as to the status of any requests for specialist treatment and any

reasons why a referral has or has not been approved.

DIAC should ensure prompt responses to

recommendations made by doctors, especially where there are recommendations for

external treatment.

Toptop

13 Recreational activities

In 2006, the Commission congratulated DIAC and GSL for improving

their recreational programs, with the exception of NIDC.

In 2007, we are pleased to find noticeable improvements

at the NIDC, and some improvements in terms of internal activities and

infrastructure at other centres.

However, we are greatly disappointed that external

excursions programs have been extensively cut back in specific centres due to

security concerns, where these activities had been successfully developed over

the previous year.

13.1 Excursions

The opportunity to experience activities in the general

community is very important for the mental health and general well-being of

detainees, especially those who may be detained for long periods of

time.

The Commission has commended the gradual introduction of

excursions in all centres over the past several years.

In addition to group excursions, several centres

introduced individual excursions in 2006. These excursions entail a specific

site-visit for individuals in detention, for example in order to visit a sick

family member or attend a family event, under GSL guard and supervision. These

were utilised in 2006-07 by MIDC and VIDC.

However, in July 2007 DIAC introduced new procedures to

consider requests for excursions and to organise and conduct such excursions.

The Commission was told that some detainees had earlier escaped from detention while on

an individual excursion.

The new procedures required each detainee to

individually request permission from DIAC to participate in an excursion. After

another escape by a high risk detainee, all excursions were suspended pending

the introduction of new procedures.

Revised procedures state that excursions by high risk

detainees are approved only in exceptional circumstances. It appears that

detainees whose visas have been cancelled under s501 of the Act (usually those

with a criminal record) are automatically determined to be a high flight risk.

This means that they have been refused permission to participate in individual

and group excursions.

In addition to the new DIAC procedures, GSL has issued a

new directive which specifies a greater ratio of staff to detainees on

excursions. Due to the new GSL and DIAC procedures, activities officers find

that they must plan in advance more than previously.

In addition to the effect on high risk detainees, the

new procedures seem to have impacted on the excursions programs for the general

detainee population at several centres, resulting in a reduction, or a

suspension, of excursions.

The Commission detected confusion and concern among detainees

over the new procedures. Several detainees told us that they did not understand

why excursions had stopped, or that they were confused as to why they had been

prohibited from participating when others are able to go.

13.1.1 Maribyrnong and Perth

Prior to the introduction of the new procedures, both

MIDC and PIDC had developed substantial excursions programs.

At MIDC, detainee excursions have included visits to the

zoo, aquarium and the beach. MIDC has also been open to requests from detainees

for particular group excursions.

However, several detainees informed us that the

excursions program was suspended a few months prior to our visit, evidently due

to the introduction of the new procedures.

Detainees with high risk assessments are now unable to

participate in excursions unless there are exceptional circumstances. During

2007, two detainees – both s501 visa cancellations – had been going

on excursions to visit family. These visits stopped with the introduction of the

new procedures. However, at the time of our visit, MIDC were making a request

for a detainee to continue visiting his 15 year old son on the basis of

exceptional circumstances.

In response to our comments about detainee confusion and

concern, MIDC has since distributed a factsheet to some detainees regarding

excursions. They have also been trying to facilitate visits to MIDC of families

of high risk detainees.

At PIDC the excursions program was expanding in variety

and frequency, until the recently introduced new procedures. According to the

PIDC excursions program, external excursions were available every day, depending

on the number of detainees who wished to participate. Excursions until recently

have included picnics in Kings Park, sport, fishing, Fremantle and maritime

museums.

Unfortunately, since an escape from detention, and the

introduction of the new procedures, the excursions have been limited to visits

to the library and to the local gym (which includes a swimming pool) for one

hour, and visits to the Church of Christ services, Hindu temple and the Mosque.

However, high risk clients are prohibited even from these visits. This affected

the two s501 detainees at PIDC at the time of our visit, although PIDC was in

the process of requesting permission for one detainee to continue accessing

external visits due to exceptional circumstances.

Detainees at PIDC have never been permitted home visits.

Instead, family members were invited along on external excursions, for example

picnics in Kings Park. However, these have not been arranged since the new

procedures.

As a result of these changes, the activities officers at

PIDC have been trying to improve the availability of in-house activities.

Detainees at the PIRH are able to participate in

excursions. These do not seem to have been suspended during the change in

procedures. These activities include shopping visits, visits to the gym and

swimming pool, walks to Redcliffe Park and on Saturday they usually see a movie.

Detainees can also attend a church two nights a week and a trip to a mosque each

Friday.

13.1.2 Villawood

In our 2006 summary of observations, the Commission noted that

VIDC did not cater for the same level of external activities as other centres.

This was disappointing as it has the highest detainee population and houses most

of the long term detainees.

Since this visit, and up until recently, VIDC had begun

to conduct a few more excursions. For example, last summer GSL organised

swimming trips and bowling, which were available for all Stages of VIDC. VIDC

had also permitted a number of individual home visits for individual detainees

with family ties.

However, following several escapes, excursions from VIDC

were suspended pending the introduction of new procedures. At the time of our

visit, a request for a bowling excursion by GSL had yet to be

approved.

Further, excursions from the SIRH were suspended for

several weeks at the time of our visit. Detainees in SIRH are usually able to

participate in shopping trips, external English classes and a range of external

activities (such as a BBQ at Bundeena). They are also entitled to request

excursions, for example, to the library.

The suspension of excursions had a significant impact on

detainees at the SIRH. There are a limited number of internal activities offered

at the SIRH itself and detainees cannot access the internal activities program

offered in the adjoining VIDC, such as the library or gym. This was causing

anger and distress among SIRH detainees, who felt that they were being punished

for the acts of high risk detainees.

This situation was resolved shortly after our visit,

when external excursions for detainees in the SIRH were re-instated.

The suspension of excursions was also causing some

distress among detainees in the VIDC at the time of our visit. For example, in

one case, a man was informed that his girlfriend had been injured in a car

accident but his request to visit her in hospital was refused. For several days

the man in question threatened to kill himself. Others also joined him in

protesting at the cancellation of visits to family.

DIAC should continue a regular and varied excursions

program for all detainees, including those in IRHs. Detainees on s501 visa

cancellations should not be automatically barred from participating in

excursions.

13.1.3 Northern

Immigration Detention Centre

In our previous summary of observations, we noted that

NIDC did not have a dedicated activities officer and had very limited

excursions.

We are pleased that the NIDC in 2007 has greatly

improved the program of external activities.

A dedicated Activities officer has been appointed at the

NIDC. A Youth Officer for juveniles has also been appointed.

All staff, including health and mental health staff,

commented on the positive impact of increased excursions. Detainees were

happier, as were staff. There were fewer presentations to the health and mental

health clinics and fewer outbursts of frustration by detainees. This translated

into fewer costs for repairs and security.

At the time of our visit, detainees could go out of the

centre at least once a week and usually more often if they want to. Visits take

place to the beach, indoor soccer and volleyball games, Botanic gardens, museum,

bush walking and off-site BBQs, among others. Off site activities are offered

daily for minors, with some joint activities being organised with adults so they

can spend time with their minder and crew (see above).

While the new excursions procedure has impacted on other

centres, it has had limited impact at the NIDC. We were told that it has been a

very rare occasion that a person has been denied access to an excursion because

of a risk assessment – their preferred approach is to put on an extra

officer to supervise a person.

13.2 Internal

activities

In addition to external excursions, it is important to

develop activities within the centres, to help detainees pass the day. The Commission

noted that all centres made some efforts to improve these activities. Given the

suspension of some external activities, internal activities become even more

important.

13.2.1 Maribyrnong,

Perth and Villawood

All centres employ dedicated activities officers to

arrange structured programs internally. We were told that the programs are

discussed with detainees, who offer suggestions.

All three centres have a range of structured activities

which include

  • sporting competitions (soccer, football, volleyball,

    table tennis, badminton)

  • pool competitions
  • games nights (board games)
  • movie nights
  • karaoke
  • gyms
  • music/disco nights
  • social BBQs.

Some centres have extra organised activities

such as art classes and art activities (VIDC – Stage 2/3 and MIDC)) and

yoga, craft and cooking classes (MIDC).

Special events are also organised from time to time,

which are opportunities to include people from the external community. For

example, VIDC informed us it was organising a ‘Big Day In’ with DIAC

staff, GSL staff and detainees from each Stage, as well as friends, family and

community groups. The planned activities included an inter-stage soccer game.

Soccer games

The Commission

notes that infrastructure can limit the possibilities for sporting activities.

For example, although detainees are often interested in soccer games, at PIDC

and MIDC soccer games are not organised. PIDC is a small centre. Both its

outdoor areas are smaller paved areas, unsuitable for soccer or football games.

At MIDC, there is a larger outdoor area which could accommodate soccer games.

However, the area set aside for such activities is covered with a hard surface.

It is also not a full sized soccer pitch.

The Commission commends VIDC for its recently completed soccer

field in Stage 3 where detainees can participate in regular soccer games.

However, it is unclear how regularly Stage 1 detainees participate in these

games. The inter-Stage soccer game mentioned above is the first inter-stage

event held at VIDC. Stage 1 has two outdoor areas, but neither one is suitable

for a soccer game. Detainees in Stage 1 complained to the Commission about playing soccer

in a tiny area, with fixed outdoor furniture obstructing the game.

In contrast, NIDC has organised regular soccer games for

detainees at an external site – the East Timorese Club.

The Commission recommends that PIDC and MIDC investigate the

possibility of holding external soccer games for detainees who wish to

participate. The Commission also recommends that VIDC permits Stage 1 detainees to

regularly utilise the Stage 3 soccer field.

Gym access

There

have also been improvements in access to gyms, which are popular with some

detainees, both men and women.

MIDC has several gym areas with new equipment throughout

the centre. However, as some of these are not enclosed (for example, the gym in

the women’s area is situated in the courtyard), detainees may be

discouraged from using them. MIDC has plans to enclose the gym

areas.

Similarly, the gym area in PIDC has a small range of new

equipment. However, as it is open to the outside, and visible from the second

outdoor area, usage may be discouraged. Refurbishment plans at PIDC will improve

this. On the other hand, detainees (with the exception of high risk detainees)

are able to visit an external gym on most days of the week.

The newly completed gym at Stage 3 VIDC is large and

well-equipped. It also opens out onto a café area where detainees can

socialise and make themselves tea and coffee. Outside heaters are provided for

wintertime.

VIDC is to be congratulated for introducing this gym and

recreation area, which is reportedly well-used. The gym is closed during lunch

and dinner and is available to detainees from Stages 2 and 3 at different times

of the day. The gym is available to women only from 1pm – 2pm. However,

the gym is not open to Stage 1. In contrast, Stage 1 gym equipment is limited

and the areas are exposed.

The Commission encourages further upgrades of gym facilities

in Stage 1 VIDC and PIDC. They should be enclosed to ensure privacy, and

accessibility in winter months.

13.2.2 Northern

Immigration Detention Centre

There has been an improvement in structured activities

offered by NIDC since the Commission’s last visit in 2006.

As mentioned above, a dedicated activities officer has

been appointed. There is an external and internal activities program which is

devised in consultation with detainees.

Internal activities include arts and crafts, badminton,

volleyball, Bingo and board games, gym, karaoke and gardening. Indonesian

Independence Day was celebrated with a day of events and activities and an

evening meal.

There is an outdoor area with an undercover concrete

table tennis table, sand/beach volley ball court, open area and a Christian

prayer room at the back. The original intention was that there be a soccer

field at the back but the land is not level and floods during the rainy season.

Detainees are now taken outside the centre to use the old field of the East

Timorese club to play soccer.

There is also brand new gym equipment which can be used

any time that staff are on duty. Otherwise people can use the pool table, table

tennis, XBox and air hockey table. Guitars are also available.

The Commission is pleased to see an improvement in the

activities offered to detainees at NIDC.

13.2.3 TV,

computers, newspapers, books and other unstructured recreation

TV and DVD
All the

centres and the IRHs have access to communal televisions and DVDs throughout the

facilities. DVDs are rented from video libraries, or provided by

GSL.

At PIDC there are large plasma television screens with

Foxtel and DVDs in the recreation room and the Multi-purpose room. There is also

a TV and DVD in Area 2 Recreation Room (where women are housed separately). The

centre rents DVDs from the Video Ezy. Currently, if a detainee is low risk it is

possible to visit the shop to choose a DVD.

At MIDC, there are a number of TVs and DVDs throughout

the centre in each recreation room, and in the family rooms. GSL Officers have a

set of DVDs which detainees can borrow.

VIDC has TVs in each of the Stages. In Stage 1, there

are two rooms dedicated to TVs. One room, with six chairs, was in use by a group

of detainees at the time of the visit. The second room, with DVD player, is

uninviting, with a series of chairs bolted to the floor. Detainees request DVDs

from a collection held by GSL officers. In Stage 2, there is also a dedicated TV

room, with five plastic chairs, although this is for free to air TV only. In

Stage 2/3 recreation area there is a separate room with a flat screen TV and DVD

player on the wall, fixed chairs and a locked cupboard which contains the DVDs.

Access to the DVDs is on request.

Each of the living areas in the PIRH and SIRH has their

own TVs and DVD players. Detainees can rent DVDs themselves.

NIDC North Compound has Indonesian satellite TV and free

to air TV. South Compound receives free to air TV. There are DVD players in the

compounds with Indonesian movies available.

Computers and

internet

All the centres, with the exception of

NIDC, now provide detainees with access to computers and the internet. These are

also planned for NIDC as part of a general roll out of internet at all

facilities.

Use of the internet includes email access. Pornography

and sex sites are blocked, as are sites for purchasing goods.

In all centres, the use of the internet is governed by

Smart cards, which are given out to each detainee. The amount of access on each

card varies by centre.

At PIDC, there are three computers, all with internet

access, situated in the education room. The education room is always open. Each

detainee automatically gets two hours of internet access every four hours on

their card, and can even buy more with PAS points. The internet is very popular

and well-used. However, the only problem is the location in the education room,

which is also used for English classes. This means one activity interferes with

the other. As part of its planned refurbishments, PIDC intends to create a

dedicated education room.

The PIRH had two computers with internet access in the

common area. DIAC were considering moving these into each of the residences for

greater privacy and access.

At MIDC, detainees have full internet access at several

computers in the Centre: in the Visitors centre, women’s recreation room,

men’s recreation rooms and education rooms. Upon arrival, detainees are

also given a USB stick and headphones. Smart cards give them an hour of internet

access a day, with no limits on when they can use it. They can print off for

free.

At VIDC, computers and internet are available in the

recreational centre of Stage 2/3 and in Stage 1 recreational room. In the Stage

2/3 recreational area, there is a dedicated room for internet access with four

computer terminals. In Stage One, there are four computers in a room adjacent to

the television room. However, not all the computers have internet access. Each

detainee at VIDC is given a ‘Global Gossip’ internet card with a pin

number, entitling them to one hour of internet time per day (although they can

apply for extra hours). Detainees are also provided with USBs. When they leave

the centre their ‘Global Gossip’ card is cancelled. GSL at VIDC

informed us that the number of internet terminals in VIDC will be increased to

16.

SIRH had four computers in the education room accessible

to all detainees, but did not yet have the internet installed. Detainees raised

with us the lack of internet access. We were informed that this was to take

place shortly.

The Commission commends DIAC for the roll-out of the internet

facilities in immigration detention. Access to the internet and email provides

detainees with opportunities for entertainment, access to essential information

and effective communication with the outside world.

The Commission encourages DIAC to continue to expand access to

computers and internet facilities, including at NIDC and SIRH.

Books and

Newspapers

All centres provide some foreign

language newspapers. Internet access has also improved access to foreign

news.

At PIDC, external excursions include visits to the local

library. The local library also allows book lending through the internet. There

are a variety of books in other languages. There are very few books in the

centre, or in the education room, although there are bookshelves in the new

Multi-Purpose Room.

At MIDC, a local librarian visits with a box of books,

about 8-10 books in different languages. The librarian also tries to accommodate

requests. When the library visits, there is an opportunity to share coffee and

biscuits.

At VIDC, there is a small library situated in Stage 2,

in a separate demountable. The room is locked at all times and is only open on

request. There is a small collection of Mandarin books and a few Korean books

but most books appeared to be old fiction, in English. There is no chair in the

room and it is not an inviting reading environment.

In Stage 1, VIDC, a bookshelf in one of the television

rooms had some old English books and magazines. Otherwise, it is unclear what

provision is made for accessing reading materials besides

newspapers.

At NIDC, Indonesian newspapers were available at the

officer’s station. There is no library but they are working on getting

excursions to the local library. Staff going to Indonesia on holidays are asked

to bring back books and DVDs.

The Commission recommends that VIDC explore options for

detainee to access books. Options include

  • visits to a local library
  • visits by a local librarian
  • internet lending.

Dictionaries
In

our 2006 summary of observations, we raised the lack of Indonesian-English

dictionaries at NIDC. In our 2007 visits, we were told that these dictionaries

have been supplied.

Other
At the

VIDC, detainees in Stage 2 and 3 can maintain gardens and grow vegetables. They

are provided with seeds and gardening equipment. NIDC also provides detainees

with opportunities to garden.

Toptop

14 Education programs

Many detainees complain of boredom, despite improvements

in internal activities programs. Long term detainees in particular wish to do

something constructive with their time in detention. However, according to DIAC

policy, they are unable to engage in study leading to

qualifications.

All centres run limited education programs, mostly

English classes. While this is an entirely appropriate class to offer, it may

not be appropriate for some detainees. This is the case with a number of visa

overstayers and s501 cancellations who are from English-speaking

backgrounds.

Some centres run a few computer classes. At PIDC,

several online computer classes are supervised by the English

teacher.

At VIDC, computer classes are open to all detainees in

Stages 2 and 3 in a dedicated computer room, with 11 computers. GSL provide

certificates to detainees if they complete computer levels. For example, if

they complete an excel level. However, these are not formally

accredited.

MIDC and VIDC have also held volunteer-run art and music

classes. However, these are activities rather than an accredited educational

program.

At MIDC, the Education Officer told us that if detainees

are interested in a more advanced education program than the classes being

offered, she will put together a basic program. In the past, she has put

together basic programs on English literature and Literacy and Numeracy.

The Commission also notes that the provision of English classes

seems to vary across the centres. For example, NIDC does not offer English

classes at all, to either juveniles or adults.

Detainees told us that the English classes at the PIRH

are not as regular and extensive as they would like. PIDC later informed us that

the quality and consistency of the English classes in PIRH has been reviewed and

has since been improved.

The Commission reiterates its recommendation from 2006 as

follows:

DIAC should cease the policy which prohibits

detainees from enrolling in courses leading to a qualification. DIAC should

allow long-term detainees to enrol in substantive education courses at TAFE and

other institutions, irrespective of whether it leads to a qualification.

Enrolment could be by correspondence. However, DIAC should also consider

permitting detainees to attend certain classes in person.

Toptop

15 Phones

Mobile phones can be used in all centres. This does not

seem to have caused any problems for DIAC or GSL but has greatly improved

detainee access to the outside world. Detainees can pay for mobile phone cards

using the Purchasing Allowance Scheme (PAS) (see below). There are also pay

phones or card-phones in all centres.

At VIDC, we were told that since detainees have been

permitted to use mobile phones, the Telstra pay phones are underutilised. As a

result Telstra wants to remove some of the phones. However, detainees need the

pay phones to make international phone calls with phone cards.

Toptop

16 Purchasing Allowance Scheme (PAS)

PAS is still in operation at all the centres. Under PAS,

detainees can purchase items like phone cards, chocolates, packet noodles, soft

drinks and cigarettes using ‘points’ accrued during their time in

detention.

All detainees receive a set number of points per week

(25 points – equivalent to about $25). Detainees can accrue extra PAS

points per hour for participating in programs and activities. These activities

include the structured activities program, such as English classes or sports

competitions, and excursions. Detainees cannot accumulate more than 200 PAS

points. They also cannot cash out their points upon departure.

In the 2006 summary of observations, the Commission recommended

that DIAC permit the accumulation of points from month to month beyond 200 PAS

points. There does not seem to be any reason to limit the accumulation of points

as long as detainees understand that those points can not be cashed out on

departure from detention.

However, the maximum number of points in centres is

still 200 points, despite this recommendation.

The Commission recommends that DIAC remove the cap on the

number of points that can be earned in any month under PAS.

The Commission also recommends that DIAC consider a lay-by

system for long term detainees so that detainees can buy larger items more

gradually.

Toptop

17 Food

At all immigration detention centres there were mixed

reports about food. Food is a common cause of complaints among detainees as,

over long periods of time, it becomes increasingly frustrating to have limited

control over choice of food or food quality.

The Commission commends DIAC and GSL for the regular detainee

committee meetings which are held in all centres, where detainees can give

feedback on food provided. DNCA (the private company contracted to cater in the

detention centres), GSL and DIAC attend these meetings.

The Commission visited all kitchens and dining facilities in the

centres, and ate, at least once, lunch with the detainees.

In general, the Commission found that all centres had made

efforts to improve the quality and variety of food provided. Menus are rotated

three-weekly or monthly and there are genuine attempts to cater for the

different needs of detainee groups. For example, in centres where there are a

number of Indian or Sri Lankan detainees, centres attempt to provide rice and

curries with appropriate spices. All the kitchens are halal

certified.

However, a few detainees we spoke to made complaints

about the monotony of food, a lack of cultural appropriateness, the quality and

difficulties of having special needs and diets met. In particular, almost all

detainees we spoke to at MIDC complained about the quality of food at the

centre, saying that it was bland and monotonous. MIDC later informed us that a

new three week menu was subsequently drawn up which mirrored the current

detainee cultural make-up better.

At VIDC, the kitchen and main dining room is situated in

Stage 2. This is well-attended and the food is of reasonable quality and

variety. However, the food is taken to Stage 1 and distributed from hot boxes at

a very drab and dark dining room (which no one appears to eat in, preferring to

take their food away).

Centres have attempted to allow detainees more autonomy

in cooking. All centres have coffee, tea, and drinks and snacks available in

kitchenettes or the dining rooms. Some of the kitchenettes also have rice

cookers, woks, and microwaves, and there are opportunities for detainees to buy

food. At MIDC, for example, GSL officers go shopping every Wednesday and will

purchase food on a detainee’s behalf. Occasionally detainees are taken on

shopping excursions.

The Commission encourages this development. Although there are

implications for hygiene, self-catering opportunities encourage autonomy and

reduce frustrations with the prepared food. However, this is not possible for

all meals. Further, not everyone wishes to, or is able to, cook for

themselves.

In addition, all centres have initiated BBQs, once or

twice a week, where the detainees can cook their own food on BBQs with

ingredients supplied by DNCA. In PIDC they have included food cooked on woks,

and separate BBQs for pork for Chinese detainees. At VIDC Stage 2, new BBQs have

been installed for this purpose.

The Commission recommends that DIAC explore alternative means

of providing greater variety of meals, and autonomy in food choice. Some

possibilities include activities kitchens (which were successful in Baxter IDC),

cooking classes, special food nights and occasional take-away

food.

Toptop

18 Interpreters

The only centre which employs on-site interpreters on an

ongoing basis is NIDC. At NIDC there are two Indonesian interpreters available

to the NIDC at all times. As the detainee population is almost entirely Bahasa

Indonesian speaking, this is a cost-effective way of ensuring communication

between the detainees and the detention service providers. NIDC also uses the

Telephone Interpreting Service (TIS).

However, all other centres use TIS almost exclusively:

although VIDC did inform us that at times they have contracted face to face

interpreters for particular occasions.

While DIAC and GSL staff felt that TIS is adequate for

basic communication, there are times when TIS is inadequate for dealing with

complex issues. Face to face interpreters minimise misunderstandings that can

arise using the phone. Also, for health and mental health appointments, there

are times when phone interpreting is inappropriate.

Further, a reliance on TIS restricts communication

between DIAC and GSL staff and detainees on a daily basis, such as answering

requests and general rapport-building while wandering around the

centre.

The Commission acknowledges that where there is a mix of

different language groups among detainees, it is not cost-effective to employ

on-site interpreters at all centres. However, where there is a large body of

detainees from one language group, who are having difficulty with the English

language, DIAC and GSL should consider employing an on-site interpreter, or

contract an on-site interpreter on a regular basis. This may be the case in

VIDC, where the largest group of detainees at the time of our stay is

Mandarin-speaking.

The Commission also heard from some detainees that important

documents were provided in English. One detainee said that she had been unable

to understand the contents of a letter to her from DIAC, and was too inhibited

with her English to ask for assistance. Although she had been assisted by a

fellow detainee previously, she had since been moved to another area of the

facility.

The Commission recommends that DIAC should, where possible,

ensure the availability of permanent onsite interpreters when there is a large

detainee population from a single language group. This is particularly relevant

to VIDC with a large population of Mandarin-speaking detainees.

The Commission also emphasises that all official documents,

including documents and notices about the operation of the centres, should be

provided in the main languages of the detainee population. Detainees should also

be able to request assistance with translation of documents.

Toptop

19 Commission

Posters

The Commission has always provided posters to DIAC which set out

how a detainee can make a complaint about possible human rights abuses occurring

inside detention centres.

At the time of our visit, all centres had Commission

immigration detention complaints posters in communal areas. However, the Commission notes

that these were not always in the two language versions provided by the Commission.

The Commission gave additional copies of the Commission posters to all

managers, asking them to ensure that both versions are displayed throughout the

centres.

Commission posters should be posted clearly in all

communal areas within detention facilities (including the visitors area), in

both language versions provided by the Commission.

Toptop

20 Northern

Immigration Detention Centre

In our 2006 summary, we reported that the NIDC required

the most improvements of all the centres we visited.

However, in 2007 we are pleased that many of the issues

we raised have been addressed by DIAC and GSL, so that NIDC has a greatly

improved environment. We note that NIDC devised a plan for implementing

the Commission’s previous recommendations specifically.

Some of these improvements have already been addressed

in the previous sections of this report. They include:

  • Juveniles are now detained day and night at separate

    facilities to the adults (in a Darwin motel).

  • A Youth Activities Officer is employed full-time for the

    juveniles and there is a dedicated activities officer/operations coordinator for

    adults in the NIDC.

  • Child-appropriate activities are provided for

    juveniles.

  • There is a good program of external and internal

    activities for juveniles and adults.

  • The ensuite bathrooms have been reopened.
  • Indonesian newspapers are provided.
  • Commission posters are prominently displayed.
  • Four pay phones have been installed.
  • An on-site Bahasa Indonesia interpreter has been employed

    38 hours a week.

The Commission commends the NIDC for responding to

our recommendations and improving the facilities for detainees.

Other issues specific to NIDC, which we raised on our

visit, include:

  1. Warning signs on fence: It would be helpful to

    have warning signs on the electric fences of the NIDC in Indonesian.

  2. Detainee information: Detainees need to be

    informed of the progress of their cases on a very regular basis. This seems to

    be a point of tension in the centre.

  3. Mental health care: The hours of mental health

    care assistance for detainees need to be flexible. Small numbers of detainees

    does not necessarily mean fewer mental health care needs.

The Commission also notes that NIDC does not have a

medical observation room where unwell detainees can rest, unlike other

immigration detention facilities. We suggest that this would be a useful

addition to the infrastructure.

Toptop

21 Villawood

Villawood holds the largest number of detainees of all

the centres. It also has a large number of long-term detainees with

ever-worsening mental health problems. Further, as Stage 1 Villawood is the

largest and most secure facility, detainees who are perceived as difficult to

manage seem to be placed in Villawood. This adds to an overall atmosphere at

Villawood as security-driven and tense, compared to the atmosphere at the

smaller centres.

In particular, Stage 1 has the strong appearance of a

prison. It is run-down, especially the dormitories, and the atmosphere is harsh

and inhospitable. Commission staff were shocked by the dilapidated infrastructure of

Villawood Stage 1 compared to other centres and facilities we visited. Of

particular note are:

  • the bleak visitors facilities
  • the dining room, without windows or natural light or

    decoration

  • dormitory 1, which is dark, depressing and lacks

    privacy

  • external areas, which do not have enough greenery or

    outlook.

The Commission repeats the recommendation we made in

last year’s summary:

The Commission strongly recommends that Stage 1, VIDC, be

demolished and replaced with a new facility as a matter of priority.

In such an atmosphere, any change in the provision of

services has a magnified impact on detainees. The suspension of individual and

group excursions at all facilities, had an adverse impact on the mental health

of detainees and risked becoming a very serious issue for the running of the

centre. The suspension of activities in SIRH also seemed to add unnecessarily to

the distress of detainees in that facility.

The Commission recognises that DIAC and GSL have a more difficult

task meeting both security priorities and detainee service requirements.

However, it is detrimental to the overall mental health of the detainee

population to treat all detainees as if they are high risk.

VIDC staff have made some attempts to provide detainees

with internal activities to substitute for the limited availability of

excursions. There have also been some good developments in Stage 2 and 3,

including a new soccer field, gym and outdoor café area, the introduction

of the internet. However, these mostly benefit detainees in Stage 2 and 3, and

not Stage 1.

Considering the size of VIDC and the number of long term

detainees, VIDC should be leading the way in terms of external and internal

programs and infrastructure. This is not the case.

The SIRH, on the other hand, provides a significantly

more friendly detention environment for detainees. However, despite the fact

that SIRH is not full to capacity, there are a large number of long term

detainees in VIDC who would benefit from a less harsh environment, yet do not

seem to be transferred to the SIRH.

Other issues specific to VIDC, which we raised on our

visit, include:

  1. SASH observation rooms: Detainees from Stage 2 and

    3 who are on SASH observation should not be transferred to Stage 1 Observation,

    as it is situated far from the medical centre and Stage 1 is perceived by

    detainees as punitive.

  2. Internal activities in the SIRH: At the time of

    our visit some detainees in the IRH were restricted from excursions. When

    excursions are suspended, there is very little for SIRH detainees to do. There

    needs to be some internal activities organised in these cases, for example

    access to Stage 2 gym, or English classes.

  3. Interpreters: As there are a large number of

    Chinese-speaking detainees, it would be beneficial to have a Mandarin speaking

    interpreter on-site. This would be particularly useful in health services. In

    addition, all official communications with detainees should be

    translated.

  4. Food: In Stage 1 some detainees perceive the food

    as not halal. There is a need to reassure them that it is halal, perhaps with a

    visit to the kitchen and storage area as has occurred in Stage 2/3. There are

    also complaints that food requests are not acted on, even for people with

    allergies.

  5. Religious practice: A detainee told us that some

    detention officers made negative comments about detainee religious practice. It

    may be beneficial for officer training to include particular emphasis on respect

    for religious belief and practice.

Toptop

22 Maribyrnong

During our last visit, we commented that MIDC appears to

be the ‘pilot’ detention centre for several programs. This continues

to be the case.

During 2006-2007, MIDC has undertaken extensive

renovations. Stages 1 and 2 of the renovations have been completed with good

results. Stage 1 involved construction of a new administration area, medical

wing and a dormitory. The razor wire was also taken down. Stage 2 involved

refurbishing the old areas to standards of the new areas. The final Stage 3 is

to be completed by the end of 2007 and is mainly concerned with beautifying the

centre and external courtyards.

In general, the renovations make the centre more

friendly and relaxed. Although a small centre, the renovations provide detainees

with a number of different spaces to find some privacy or engage in different

activities. It is also less crowded than before. Of particular note is the

variety of smaller outside courtyards, which MIDC has attempted to beautify, and

which provide light and outlook to the internal spaces. The visitor’s

facilities are comfortable and provide visitors and detainees with television

and internet access (the only downside being a lack of external space for

families). There are plans to make a corner child-friendly.

MIDC is also to be congratulated for the availability of

computers with internet access throughout the centre.

The Commission also notes that management and staff appear to be

open and responsive to suggestions on how to further enhance the services within

the facility.

The Commission is, however, disappointed by the impact of the new

excursions procedures. We noted previously that the introduction of home visits

at MIDC was of great benefit to the mental well-being of those long-term

detainees with family and friends in the community, particularly those who would

otherwise be isolated from these personal contacts. The Commission encourages MIDC to

continue excursions where possible. The Commission notes that since the change in

procedure, MIDC recommended that a s501 detainee should continue his visits

under exceptional circumstances.

Some other issues specific to MIDC, which we raised on

our visit, include:

  • Food: Detainee complaints about the quality and

    variety of food appear to be greater at MIDC than at other detention centres. We

    suggested that takeaway food should be allowed occasionally, an activities

    kitchen be created and there be an increase in the number of cooking classes and

    BBQs. MIDC has made some attempts to ameliorate this problem: since our visit

    DIAC informed us that a new three week menu was drawn up after consultation with

    the detainee consultative committee, with changes that mirrored the current

    detainee base.

  • Change table for parents: There is no change

    table or parents’ room in the visitors’ area, despite many families

    visiting detainees. MIDC are examining ways to rectify this.

  • Broken window in Zone A: Some detainees complained

    that the window in Zone A took a week to be replaced and in that time it was not

    boarded up.

  • Tennis court/soccer field: The outdoor area

    created for sporting activities does not seem suitable for soccer.

  • Alterations to Zone C: Zone C, where the SASH

    observation rooms are situated, should be altered so that the transit rooms and

    observation rooms are separated but both have better access to the courtyard

    area.

  • Vinyl mattresses: The vinyl mattresses

    uncomfortable and hot. This has been rectified since our

    visit.

Toptop

23 Perth

PIDC is a small, cramped centre which is not equipped to

house detainees for long periods of time. Despite these limitations, the Commission notes

that management and staff have continued to make efforts to improve the

facilities and services, and to remain open to suggestions from detainees and

others about such improvements.

Similar to MIDC, PIDC has also been undergoing

renovations and refurbishments since our last visit in 2006. So far, the

refurbishments have included soundproofing the interview rooms, making some

bedrooms more comfortable and fitting out a multi-purpose room with carpet, soft

furnishings, comfortable couches, a flat screen TV and a stereo system.

DIAC discussed with us the future renovation plans in

some detail, which include building a second storey. The Commission hopes that many of

the problems with the infrastructure in PIDC will be resolved by the planned

renovations, in January 2008.

These current problems include:

  • The two outside areas are generally shabby and

    claustrophobic. There is no greenery, poor ground covering and it is not

    conducive to outdoors activities.

  • Area 1 bathrooms are shabby and dark.
  • The dormitory accommodation is drab and seems darker than

    it needs to be.

  • The outlook from the Dining Room could be

    improved.

  • There is no Visitors area. It is not appropriate for

    visiting families to have to meet in the detainee common areas.

  • The education area is cramped – English classes are

    conducted while other detainees are on the computers or trying to access the

    internet. PIDC needs a dedicated education area.

The Commission is concerned that the future

renovations, which are quite extensive, may have a significant impact on both

detainees and staff. The renovation process to date has already been difficult

for detainees.

The Commission recommends that renovations at PIDC take place

promptly. The centre should be closed temporarily while renovations are taking

place. Detainees should be transferred to alternative arrangements and be fully

informed of the process in advance.

Since the Commission’s last visit to Perth, the PIRH was

opened in March 2007. The Commission found that the PIRH is well-equipped and physically

pleasant, situated in a suburban street, with a large garden and the appearance

of a normal set of residences.

The Commission congratulates DIAC for the construction of the

PIRH. It is a significantly better environment than the PIDC. The Commission’s only

complaint about the PIRH is that it appears under utilised. At the time of our

visit, only four people were detained in the facility, two in each house. The

low numbers can partly be explained by the low numbers in total at PIDC (at the

time of our visit there were only 14 detainees at the PIDC) and partly by the

fact that three detainees had just been transferred back to PIDC pending

removal. However, the Commission understands that not all detainees in the PIDC have been

assessed as high risk, and therefore should be considered for the

PIRH.

Other issues specific to PIDC, which we raised on our

visit, include

  1. Excursions: At the time of the last visit, PIDC

    was introducing an interesting external activities program. However, at the time

    of our visit and since the new excursions procedures, activities seemed to be

    limited to gym and library. The Commission is greatly disappointed that the new

    procedures have limited the range of excursions for detainees and urges

    reinstatement of a full excursion program.

    Following our visit, PIDC informed the Commission that

    a new activities program has been approved in order to expand the quality and

    variety of internal and external activities.

  1. Internal activities: Some detainees raised with us

    their wish to engage in more meaningful activities and structured classes, for

    example more advanced and structured on-line computer classes.

  2. IRH ESL classes: Some detainees complained about

    the quality and consistency of ESL teaching at the IRH. PIDC later informed us

    that the English classes at the PIRH has since been reviewed and

    improved.


Footnotes

[1] See for example, Report of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration

Detention, A last resort?, (2004); Report of an inquiry into the

detention of unauthorised arrivals, Those who’ve come across the

seas, (1998).
[2]
See for example, Report of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration

Detention, A last resort?, (2004); Report of an inquiry into the

detention of unauthorised arrivals, Those who’ve come across the

seas, (1998).