Law Council of Australia
is urging the establishment of offices for independent overseers for immigration detention and migration laws.
The suggestion comes after leaked documents published by news outlets including The Guardian
detail thousands of purported assault, sexual abuse, self-harm and unfit living conditions on Australia’s offshore detention island of Nauru.
A significant portion of the more than 2,000 reports – all in all totalling about 8,000 pages – concern children.
The Law Council of Australia proposes that there is a need now more than ever to appoint an Independent Inspector of Immigration Detention and an Independent Monitor of Migration Laws.
“The Law Council has consistently stated that Australia retains responsibility for the health and safety of asylum seekers transferred to other countries for offshore processing and assessment under the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees,” said Stuart Clark
The Law Council of Australia’s president said this responsibility derives from the Commonwealth’s common law duty of care and obligations arising under international law.
He added that the key appointment could limit harm to asylum seekers in the future while preserving Australia’s border protection policies.
“An independent reviewer specific to detention centres could operate in a similar fashion to the Federal Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. The first task of this reviewer should be to examine the disturbing reports of alleged incidents in Nauru,” Clark explained.
“A second independent, specialist body should be established to review and monitor Australia’s border protection legislation, similar to the role of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor. This has proved successful in the national space, strengthening the integrity of intelligence services, whilst not undermining operational efficiency,” he continued.
The organisation also stressed its position that minimum legal precautions must be in place to ensure Australia’s compliance with international standards which includes limits on detention and the best interest of the child principle.
Furthermore, the council president emphasised the importance of government employees including contracted medical staff, being able to speak out about incidents without fear of retribution.
The council’s immigration detention standards position can be read in their policy statement Principles Applying to the detention of Asylum Seekers
and their Asylum Seeker Policy