Compromise on detention policy reached - National - smh.com.au
A political compromise that goes someway forward towards mitigating the problems of Australia's extrodinarily harsh policy of detention but nevertheless still has someways to go. The same would really apply for any nation which uses a mandatory policy of detention as a manner of response to illegal immigration.
The background to this issue can be found me in my earlier post. This particular compromise is good in three particular areas:
1. Families will be released from detention. So no more children born and growing up in one of those detention centres. Children will de detained only as a last resort.
2. Greater power and flexibility given to the Immigration Minister who will now have the ability to grant visas and change the status of such detainees.
3. There will be a time limit of 3 months for which a primary decision must be made on a person's detention.
However, problems still remain, not least which is the mandatory detention scheme. In my earlier post, it was pointed out that Australia, as a signatory (and ratifier) of the Refugee Convention amongst other treaties had bound itself to acknowledge the right of every person to seek asylum and to protect such persons while an application is made. These laws were support to prohibit the use of such a blanket policy but obviously to no avail. The principle behind this is that such immigrants might be subject to various abuses in their country of origin which makes it impossible for them to seek legal avenues to get to their host nation.
But beyond this, there is also the entire matter of accountability and check and balances (judicial or otherwise) which has yet to be implemented. So for example, even though there is a time limit of 3 months for a primary decision, there really is no bite if the time limit is breached, "other than the requirement that regular reports be tabled in parliament detailing cases that haven't met those time limits" to quote Mr. Howard. And furthermore, it is only when detention is more than 2 years beyond there is a trigger whereby the Immigration Department must report it to the ombudsman who would then make recommendations back to the Department. Note, RECOMMENDATIONS, they are not binding, again to quote Mr. Howard. So really, it does feel like a soft policy without teeth.
However, to be fair to Mr. Howard, if we can take him at his word that there is fundamentally a very strong parliamentary and societal support for the original policy, then his submission to what a MP has called 'political terrorism' and aceeding to what might in turn be seen as a softening of a successful policy which prevents illegal immigrants, would be a blow to his political fortunes. In which case, assuming that he is being honourable in his intentions, this 'soft' policy would nevertheless work assuming that (and this is a big IF) the people in parliament raise a sufficient ruccuss everytime the Refugee Review Tribunal gives its report.
And it is entirely possible that there would not be such a need in the first place. But I seriously have have my doubts seeing that the purpose of this mandatory detention scheme is to scare people away and keep them from entering society (or to deport them).