The Federal Government will impose strict conditions on 84 people who were released from immigration detention after a High Court ruling last week.
The High Court declared ‘indefinite’ immigration detention was unlawful. Many of those subsequently released have criminal histories.
The Government introduced a bill to Parliament this morning which would require them to wear ankle bracelets among other strict conditions. It will likely pass.
The High Court was considering the case of ‘NZYQ’, a Rohingya refugee born in Myanmar.
NZYQ served time in prison for a child sex offence committed while he was on a temporary visa in Australia. Authorities rejected a subsequent visa application. He cannot return to Myanmar, where he faces persecution, and no other country is willing to take him.
Last week, the High Court declared it unconstitutional for the government to put people in immigration detention indefinitely.
This ruling meant NZYQ was freed. It also meant people in similar circumstances were freed. The Government must abide by the High Court’s decision, but it argued against the release of the detainees.
Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has confirmed those released include people previously convicted of murder and rape. Those people have already served their sentences. Most are refugees who cannot be deported.
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said she was “disgusted” by the crimes.
“If it were up to me, I would put some of these people in jail and throw away the key forever. It is not up to me.”
All those released are on bridging visas.
The Government’s new bill would put new conditions on those visas, including an option for the Immigration Minister to require the wearing of ankle bracelets, impose nightly curfews, restrict employment, and require the visa holders to report to authorities regularly and share their social media profiles and financial info.
Breaking these conditions could carry up to five years’ jail.
The Opposition this morning accused the Government of being unprepared for the High Court’s decision. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said today the bill had been “drafted overnight… [but] should have been drafted months ago.”
Shadow Immigration Minister Dan Tehan says the bill did not go far enough. “The Australian people want these people re-detained… we need a new regime in place to do it.”
Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles has since announced the Government has negotiated with the Coalition and agreed on some amendments to the bill.
They include mandating curfews and location monitoring (rather than leaving them to the discretion of the Immigration Minister) and preventing the visa holders from going within 150 metres of a school.
The amendments would also impose mandatory minimum prison sentences for the breach of visa conditions, and would treat each day on which conditions are breached as a separate criminal offence.
Greens Leader Adam Bandt accused the Government of “dancing to the Liberals’ tune” by “rushing” legislation. He accused the Opposition of “a fear campaign demanding that things be done that the High Court has just said you can’t do.”
Sanmati Verma, acting Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the 84 people should not face different treatment than anyone else who had completed a sentence.
“Every single day, Australian citizens… convicted of an offence re-enter the community after serving their time. For the Government to suggest that migrants and refugees in the same position pose a different or greater risk is dangerous dog-whistling.”