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Australia to reform asylum detention policy

[JURIST] Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Evans [official website] has announced [speech transcript; press release] that the country will no longer impose mandatory detention on all those who enter the country seeking asylum. Evans said Tuesday that the country's existing immigration policy imposed detentions too broadly, held immigrants in unacceptable conditions, and that those who were detained often lacked means to challenge their detention. Making the announcement, he laid out what he called the seven "values" of the country's new approach, which he said would base the treatment of immigrants on the estimated risk they pose to the country's security:

  1. Mandatory detention is an essential component of strong border control.
  2. To support the integrity of Australia’s immigration program, three groups will be subject to mandatory detention:
    a. all unauthorised arrivals, for management of health, identity and security risks to the community
    b. unlawful non-citizens who present unacceptable risks to the community and
    c. unlawful non-citizens who have repeatedly refused to comply with their visa conditions.
  3. Children, including juvenile foreign fishers and, where possible, their families, will not be detained in an immigration detention centre (IDC).
  4. Detention that is indefinite or otherwise arbitrary is not acceptable and the length and conditions of detention, including the appropriateness of both the accommodation and the services provided, would be subject to regular review.
  5. Detention in immigration detention centres is only to be used as a last resort and for the shortest practicable time.
  6. People in detention will be treated fairly and reasonably within the law.
  7. Conditions of detention will ensure the inherent dignity of the human person
AFP has more. The Australian has additional coverage.

Australia's Federal Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes [official profile], a longtime opponent of the government's existing policies, praised the announcement [press release], saying it was a "huge step" towards bringing the country's policies in line with the typical treatment of asylum seekers elsewhere. An opinion article in Melbourne daily The Age also welcomed the changes [op-ed], but said they did not go far enough, and still gave the government too much control over the liberty of those seeking refuge in the country.

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