Refugee advocates reject absurd detention mobile phone claims

| February 28, 2017 | Reply

Refugee advocates have rejected claims by Commissioner Quaedvlieg that the use of mobile phones is linked to criminal behaviour.

“The mobile phone ban is part of militarising the detention centres, and is part and parcel of a suite of punitive policies being rolled out by Border Force, “ said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The attempted ban on mobiles goes along with the routine use of handcuffs to attend medical appointments and arbitrary movements of detainees to remote detention centres and cruel changes that severely restrict visiting arrangements.

“The phones are a life-line to people cut off from family, legal assistance and community support. The claim that landlines in the detention are adequate is a joke. It is impossible for people to call into Villawood, for example.

“The Commissioner’s glib reference to running a ‘custodial facility’ hides the fact that immigration detention is administrative detention not a correctional facility. Asylum seekers in detention are not guilty of any crime.

“The government’s decision to keep 501 cases, so-called ‘criminal deportees’, in immigration detention is a case of double punishment. People who have finished their sentence imposed by the courts are being held on the whim of the Immigration Minister.

“Refugee advocates have long argued that 501s and asylum seekers should not be held in the same detention facilities. There are good arguments why neither should be in detention at all. Taking mobile phones off people can only add to strains and tensions inside the detention centres.

“The existing ban on asylum seekers who arrived by boat having a phone is absurd and inconsistent. Everybody should have a phone.

“The Commissioner has no credible evidence that phones have been used in criminal behaviour. He has no evidence that phones are a focus of any ‘stand-over’ behaviour in detention centres,” said Rintoul.

“But the arbitrary searches of detainees’ rooms for ‘contraband’ that may arise from banning mobile phones certainly falls into the category of stand-over behaviour by guards. There have been fights over fans in hot weather, too. But as in all cases, the fights are more a product of the punitive conditions in detention than with food, fans, or mobile phones.

“The serious use of drugs in detention is mostly associated with the criminal behaviour of security guards than the use of mobile phones by detainees.

“The Commissioner also tries to associate mobile phones with escapes. This is another attempt to cover up Serco and Border Force’s own security failures.

“It would be far simpler to end detention. But as long as detention exists, detainees should have mobile phones.

“We reject any idea that detention centres should be run like Guantanamo Bay.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

Category: Press releases

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