Detained asylum seekers will be unfairly targeted by proposed new laws aimed at managing ex-prisoners who have been placed in detention after having their visas cancelled, ASRC CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis said today.

“People who came to Australia on a range of different visas and were subsequently jailed for committing serious crimes are having their visas cancelled in line with the Government’s ‘good character’ laws introduced last year,” Mr Karapanagiotidis said.

“Once they’ve served their time in prison, if arrangements haven’t been made to send them home, the Government is dumping them in detention as they can’t go back into the community without a visa.

“The Government made a big deal out of its ‘good character’ laws but failed to put the systems in place to send people home if they didn’t meet the so-called ‘good character’ test.

“As a result, detention centres are being filled to the point of overcrowding with disgruntled former prisoners, which puts asylum seekers in a very difficult situation.

“But rather than deal with the mess they’ve created, the Government wants to bring in new laws that give detention guards largely unchecked powers to use as much force as they like in any circumstance they see fit.  This is more power than police or prison officers have.

“The Government should deal with the real problems in its detention centres – asylum seekers forced to live in crowded conditions alongside convicted criminals with little information or certainty about their future – rather than giving guards the green light to manage the situation through violence and fear.

“Former Victorian Supreme Court Judge Stephen Charles SC told a Senate Inquiry this week that the proposed laws would effectively give guards the authority to beat asylum seekers to death.

“This is incredibly scary, particularly when you consider the number of reported incidents where guards have abused their existing powers and used excessive force against children, women and men in detention.

“The Government’s own Moss Report found evidence of sexual and physical abuse by guards against women and children in detention on Nauru.

“Reza Barati was beaten to death by guards on Manus Island over a year ago with the perpetrators yet to be brought to justice.

“New coercive powers are not the answer.  The Government needs to get people out of detention by either assessing their claim for asylum or, if they’ve had their visa cancelled, sending them home.

“We’re asking people to campaign with us to get this Bill blocked in the Senate.  People should get in touch with their local Senator and let them know they don’t support laws that will allow excessive use of force against detained asylum seekers.”

Media enquiries: Mary Fall 0407 683 664

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