The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council has joined other organisations calling on the Senate not to pass legislation next week that would prohibit mobile phones in immigration detention centres.
The Law Council of Australia, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Refugee Council of Australia all oppose the bill, arguing it is not necessary, nor reasonable, nor proportionate.
If passed, the bill will enable the Immigration Minister to declare items such as mobile phones and SIM cards as prohibited and to be confiscated from all detainees, irrespective of whether they have committed a crime or not.
“The blanket ban on mobile phones fails to distinguish between people in immigration detention generally and those who are a genuine safety risk,” said St Vincent de Paul Society National president Claire Victory.
“We support the safe management of immigration detention facilities but in accordance with the rule of law. Authorised officers under the Migration Act can already search, screen and strip search detainees, without a warrant. These existing powers have fewer safeguards than ordinary police powers to search a person or premises.”
Ms Victory said the bill punishes all detainees for the criminal activity of others.
“A 2019 Australian Human Rights Commission report found that only a minority of detainees use mobile phones inappropriately,” Ms Victory said.
She said it is a “a basic human right that people are able to speak to their loved ones and support network”.
“The rate of self-harm in immigration detention is 200 times higher than in the Australian community. We should be trying to reduce this terrible rate, not make it worse.”
Stop the blanket ban on mobile phones (St Vincent de Paul Society)