Community against Minister Dutton’s mobile phone seizure powers as Bill passes House

Media Release

3 September 2020

A joint petition against The Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2020 has gathered over 154,340 signatures as part of the No Phones No Life campaign.

The campaign trended on Twitter several times over the past four days and engaged hundreds of thousands of people on Facebook and Instagram.

An outpouring of concern on social media pointed to the fact that people inside detention use phones to expose abuses by Australian Border Force, connect to social media, speak out in the media as well as to connect to critical support networks of family, friends, legal and medical services.

Members of Parliament from Labor, Greens, Centre Alliance and Independents supported the campaign by posting images of themselves holding up a sign that says “I stand with 154,340 people opposing the No Phones No Life Bill.”

MPs spoke passionately in Parliament opposing the expansion of the Minister’s powers to seize a lifeline of phones from people in detention without cause.

They all spoke of the overwhelming number of calls from constituents appealing to them to oppose the bill.

The Australian Medical Association, Law Council of Australia and human rights organisations, including the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and the National Justice Project have pointed out that Minister Dutton already has the power to seize phones with due cause via the police.

These new powers will heavily impact on transparency and accountability of the Department’s conduct inside detention centres, where more than 4000 assaults and excessive use of force have been perpetrated by guards in five years.

The only people set to benefit from the Bill are those who proposed it, the Government.

Human rights activist and musician formerly detained on Manus and now held at Mantra Hotel, Melbourne, Mostafa Azimitaba said:

“Minister Dutton wants to silence us inside detention centres because more and more of the Australian community supports people held in indefinite detention. Our phones are our voice, our connection to support and family. Phones are our whole lives when we have been locked up indefinitely for no good reason.”

“I thank the thousands of Australians who are standing with us for our freedom and safety.”

Advocacy and Campaigns Director, Jana Favero said:

“We are heartened at the success of the No Phones No Life campaign on social media and in Parliament. People in Australia understand the importance of mobile phones for access to community and support as well as accountability inside detention centres.”

“Everyone is concerned about the increasing expansion of powers of Home Affairs to control and punish people in detention centres, who are already experiencing rapidly deteriorating mental and physical health from being indefinitely detained and cut off from visitors and support since March. The Senate must listen to the community and vote down this unnecessary and harmful Bill.”

CEO and Director of the National Justice Project, Adjunct Prof George Newhouse said:

“We were surprised and heartened at the groundswell of concern shown by everyday Australians to the Minister’s latest attempt to seize mobile phones off people in detention, their response shows that they are clearly watching out for those who are marginalised in immigration detention.”

“People understand the importance of phones to individuals and that has led to the success of the No Phones No Life campaign. The minister has sufficient powers to regulate immigration detention and his proposed laws are just an attempt to punish and hide the cruelty of our immigration detention system.”

GetUp Human Rights Campaigns Director Amy Knibbs said:

“This petition represents a phenomenal 154,000 people’s voices calling for the Senate to protect government accountability and strike down this dangerous bill. Peter Dutton’s immigration detention centres must not be allowed to become a black hole.

“Refugees and people seeking asylum need their mobile phones to blow the whistle on abuses and mistreatment – and that is the transparency that this bill would put in danger.”


Click here to access images from the No Phones No Life campaign of MPs and people in detention

Click here to read submission to Senate Inquiry 2019

Media contact: Jana Favero, 0438 829 651

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