Dalziel wrong: Court decision doesn’t endorse wholesale detention of refugees

Green MP Keith Locke says the Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel has misinterpreted yesterday’s Court of Appeal decision as endorsing the detention of most asylum seekers.

“In practice, the Court of Appeal decision challenges Ms Dalziel’s policy of detaining almost every undocumented asylum seeker,” said Mr Locke, the party’s foreign affairs spokesperson.

“In her decision, Justice Glazebrook disagrees with the government submission that immigration officers are not bound to take the 1951 Refugee Convention into account, and states it is a ‘mandatory’ consideration.

“Justice Glazebrook goes on to describe at length the 1999 Guidelines of the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), saying they ‘reiterate the principle that detention of asylum-seekers should be an exception, not the rule’.

“Surely the Government’s detention of 307 asylum seekers since September 11, 2001, is contrary to that approach.

“Justice Glazebrook quotes the UNHCR Guidelines as saying ‘detention in order to verify identity should not be routinely judged necessary, in the absence of other factors’.

“Yet the government routinely detains people without proper papers, including many children, and several pregnant women.

“The Court of Appeal decision was on quite narrow grounds, allowing a clause in the Immigration Act and the Immigration Service’s Operational Instructions to be used to detain people. Unlike the High Court judgement which it overturns, the Court of Appeal decision simply doesn’t address the Government’s current practice.

“There is no way this judgement can be taken as endorsing the Government’s Australia-style policy of large-scale detention. The Court of Appeal’s elaboration of guidelines and criteria is implicitly critical of it.

“It is about time the Government adopted a more humanitarian policy towards asylum-seekers, who often arrive here in a fragile state, having been subject to persecution in their own countries,” said Mr Locke.