Government deports more asylum seekers, calls inquiry

June 14, 2008

A Chinese man, Pang Pang, was deported back to Tian Jing province last week from Sydney's Villawood detention centre. After he had been placed into State 1 at Villawood — the immigration prison's maximum security area — he had asked to see his case officer. No-one came to see him for two weeks, and he was subsequently deported.

This deportation came on the back of the federal Labor government deporting two Indians, a Peruvian, and four Chinese men from Villawood. One of the Indians had been in detention for over six years.

On June 10, the government announced an inquiry into detention. This inquiry follows sustained criticism of the high rate of rejections of asylum seekers and a wave of deportations. The inquiry's terms of reference include looking at "the criteria that should be applied in determining how long a person should be held in immigration detention", "the criteria that should be applied in determining when a person should be released from immigration detention following health and security checks", "options to expand the transparency and visibility of immigration detention centres" and "options for additional community-based alternatives to immigration detention..."

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition told Green Left Weekly: "We are a little dismayed that there is yet another inquiry. There is no shortage of recommendations from previous inquiries by parliamentary committees, and other bodies which have been ignored by previous governments. They are just sitting there waiting for a sympathetic government to act on them ...

"Rather than another inquiry, a summit meeting drawing on the experience of refugee advocacy groups and refugees themselves would be a better and quicker way to move to establish a humanitarian policy. The inquiry itself is nonetheless an admission that things still need to be fixed.

"In the meantime it seems the immigration department is still setting the agenda. If the minister is committed to real change, he could declare an amnesty for all asylum seekers in Australia and at least put a halt to the deportations."

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