DIAC to rethink detainee transfer processes
An Ombudsman investigation into the transfer of 22 detainees to the Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre at Silverwater during the April 2011 riots at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre has prompted the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) to review its processes.
Acting Deputy Ombudsman George Masri today said the investigation had found deficiencies in the way in which detainees were notified about their transfer to Silverwater, the records kept by DIAC and the follow up with detainees after their transfer.
‘DIAC did not follow its own procedures in relation to the transfers either during or after the incidents at Villawood on 20 and 21 April last year,’ Mr Masri said.
‘Notwithstanding the operational demands at the time, once the physical threat to staff and detainees had passed, DIAC had an obligation to ensure that all procedural and administrative requirements were met.
‘This did not happen.’
Mr Masri said that DIAC had not appropriately informed the detainees about why they had been transferred to Silverwater and had delayed notifying the detainees’ migration agents. There were also considerable gaps in DIAC’s records regarding these transfers.
‘DIAC’s own procedures require it to keep comprehensive records about the welfare of a person in immigration detention who has been transferred to a correctional facility but, when asked, the department was not able to produce any relevant records,’ he said.
‘Nor did DIAC fully comply with its mandated requirement to visit a detainee in a correctional institution within 24 hours of arrival at the institution and to contact them weekly thereafter, either in person or by telephone.
‘The first visit did not take place until six days after the detainees were transferred and only one or two more visits in person occurred 11 or 12 days later. There is no evidence of weekly contact being made during the period the detainees were held at Silverwater.’
DIAC has agreed to the Ombudsman’s recommendations for improving its processes and instigated a review of transfer arrangements between immigration and correctional detention, as well as within the wider immigration detention network. DIAC expects to update relevant policy and procedures for implementation later this year.
The Ombudsman investigated the transfer of the detainees from Villawood to Silverwater following a complaint by the detainees’ legal representative, a member of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.
The report, Department of Immigration and Citizenship: Detention arrangements – The transfer of 22 detainees from Villawood Immigration Detention Centre to the Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre Silverwater, is available from www.ombudsman.gov.au.
Media contact: Fiona Skivington 0423 845 160
Date of release: 23 April 2012