JRS Australia welcomes calls for Royal Commission and detention reform

30 November 2023

Thanush Selvarasa (third from left), a Leader in JRS Australia's Refugee Leadership Program, attends the campaign launch in support of a Royal Commission into Immigration Detention.

Amidst concerning attempts to reinstate practices of arbitrary and indefinite detention, JRS Australia welcomes calls for a Royal Commission and for permanent detention reform. 

For over a decade, Australia’s system of arbitrary and indefinite immigration detention – both onshore and offshore – has been a source of immense trauma for the people we serve. Many of our clients still deal with the long-standing mental and physical health consequences of their time in detention, and continue to live in fear of having their basic liberties taken away again. 

Reform is urgently required to provide redress for the years of suffering caused, to bring Australia’s immigration system in line with international human rights standards, and to ensure people seeking asylum are protected from arbitrary and indefinite detention into the future.

Migration Amendment (Limits on Immigration Detention) Bill 2023 

JRS Australia wholeheartedly welcomes the Migration Amendment (Limits on Immigration Detention) Bill 2023 (‘Bill’) which has been introduced into Parliament. 

The Bill seeks to bring Australia’s immigration detention system further into line with international law, which represents a key step towards ending the harmful legacy of Australia’s immigration detention practices.

The passing of this Bill would impose the necessary legal limits on the Federal Government’s power to arbitrarily or indefinitely detain a person seeking asylum, including to limit detention to a short-term measure of last resort.

Specifically, we welcome the Bill’s proposal of two key amendments to the Migration Act (1958):

  1. 90-day limit: The Bill proposes that a maximum period of detention be set at 90 days, extendable only in certain circumstances by the Minister, whose decision would be subject to independent review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
  2. Prohibition on detention of minors: The Bill seeks to expressly prohibit the detention of children in closed immigration detention centres, as required by international human rights law. The Bill would retain the Minister’s power to make residence determinations allowing for ‘community detention’ of children and their families. 

Click here to read the Bill in full.

Royal Commission into Immigration Detention

JRS Australia also welcomes calls for a Royal Commission, to consolidate the years of research and lived experience that speak to the damaging and unlawful nature of Australia’s immigration detention system to date.

Alongside other leaders in the sector, Thanush Selvarasa from JRS Australia’s Refugee Leadership Program gave evidence at the launch of the campaign for the Royal Commission in Canberra earlier last week.  

Thanush spoke about his own experience of detention, and how important it is that we start a process of truth-telling and recognition. 

Now is the time for justice.
Thanush Selvarasa, Leader in JRS Australia's Refugee Leadership Program

“We are calling for a Royal Commission to hear the truth about how we were treated by the Government in detention. We were powerless and speechless for more than 10 years. We can’t accept anymore pain in our life. Now is the time for justice.”

Thanush specifically highlighted the difficulties he faced as a result of the punitive way he was treated for seeking asylum in Australia. 

“[When] they took me to hospital, they locked me with handcuffs. I asked the security guard: ‘Why do you have to treat me like that?’ The security guard said: ‘This is part of our policy’.”

We stand in solidarity with Thanush and all refugees and people seeking asylum who have been subject to Australia’s arbitrary immigration detention system, and support their calls for a Royal Commission into their treatment at the hands of the Federal Government. 

Going forward, JRS Australia calls for the complete and permanent cessation of all arbitrary and indefinite immigration detention practices as a matter of respect for the inalienable human rights of all people, which must be upheld irrespective of background or migration status.