ASRC calls for release of people from detention in light of Commonwealth Ombudsman concern over harmful conditions

Media Release
2 July 2021

The Commonwealth Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe has released a report raising numerous concerns about Australia’s immigration detention regime, from the use of force to long wait times for medical care and many more.

ASRC is deeply troubled by the findings in the report, which clearly show the abusive and harmful conditions of the current immigration detention regime.

People seeking asylum and refugees should not be subjected to these unacceptable conditions and must be released from detention with a permanent plan for resettlement.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman report released on Wednesday was the third of its kind and covered a six-month period from January to July 2020.  This report made three recommendations.

Firstly, in visiting detention centres across Australia the ombudsman noted that people were routinely restrained for no reason and reported incidents where guards used excessive force. The ombudsman recommended the Federal Government track all instances of force and teach alternative strategies.

The use of force is especially concerning when viewed in relation to the ombudsman’s second recommendation to improve the “quality and consistency of complaint records.” In some cases, complaints about serious issues were not appropriately investigated nor were the outcomes explained.

The final recommendation was for the Department of Home Affairs to better manage the risks people who are held in detention face as they are often suffering from traumatic experiences as well as physical or mental health concerns.

Other issues were raised, including the inadequacy of APODs especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the nearly 600 days people have to wait on average for antiviral medication, delays in case progression (currently the highest they have ever been) and many more. However, the ombudsman did not make explicit recommendations on these issues.

Sadaf Ismail Detention Advocacy Manager at ASRC said: “Our clients in detention experience acute long term mental health challenges and not only can’t access proper care inside detention but deteriorate because of harmful conditions and neglect.”

“This third report and set of recommendations from the ombudsman expose the ongoing harm of the Morrison Government’s detention system and lack of accountability or efforts to improve conditions for the health, safety and protection from abuse for people in detention.”

“The only feasible solution is to end the indefinite detention of refugees and people seeking asylum and provide them with a permanent resettlement plan.”

Rachel Saravanamuthu, Senior Solicitor at ASRC said: “The ombudsman’s report confirms what we already know – people in immigration detention face serious risks to their health, safety and well-being due to the Government not fulfilling its duty of care.”

“It is vital that there is oversight of detention facilities to ensure the Government is held accountable and people are treated with dignity. We remain highly concerned by the growing number of people being held in detention for several years in these punitive conditions.”

Read the report here


Media contact: Marcella Brassett 0411 026 142

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