31 July (UN Information Service) -- A report by P.N.
Bhagwati, Regional Adviser for Asia and the Pacific of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights and former Chief Justice of India, welcomes the
positive efforts under way to improve the conditions of detention in Australia,
and appreciates the willingness of the Government to address various issues of
concern. However, he finds that "the human rights situation of
persons in immigration detention in Australia is a matter of serious
concern". Justice Bhagwati writes that a more humane approach to
illegal immigration "would certainly be desirable", and notes that the
situation of persons in immigration detention in Woomera could, in many ways, be
considered inhuman and degrading.
Bhagwati prepared his report following a visit to two detention centres in
Australia from 24 May to 2 June 2002. He visited the Woomera detention
centre, where he personally spoke to several persons in immigration detention.
Upon the request of the Government, he also saw the new detention facility in
Baxter, which is not yet operational. The Australian Government had agreed
to the visit following a request by High Commissioner Mary Robinson in February
2002. Mrs. Robinson said today she fully endorsed the findings, concluding
observations and recommendations of the report, and urged the Government of
Australia to review the concerns expressed and seek appropriate ways to address
report, which does not address issues relating to Australia's refugee status
determination procedure itself, identifies specific human rights issues of
The situation of children in detention, including unaccompanied minors;
The unduly long periods spent in detention by some individuals;
The absence of proper judicial review of the detention itself;
Concerns with regard to family unity and family life;
The lack of adequate information to detainees about their rights; and
The absence of a permanent, institutionalized and independent body to conduct
monitoring and reporting activities on a continuing basis, including unannounced
visits with the right to unfettered access.
The report also
suggests that the Government accept a follow-up visit in 2003 by a
representative of the High Commissioner.
Link Live at August 3 2002: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2002/hr4619.doc.htm