Immigration and Border Protection

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February 02, 2018

An independent report released under freedom of information laws has revealed systemic problems in Peter Dutton’s management of onshore detention centres resulting in two Australians citizens being wrongly detained in immigration detention.

Between 2016 and 2017, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (now-Department of Home Affairs) wrongfully held the two Australian citizens in immigration detention for 97 days and 13 days respectively.

The investigation exposed Dutton’s failure to manage Australia’s onshore immigration detention centres including:

  • Ignorance of critical information and a “failure by a number of DIBP officers to recognise that the individuals could be or were Australian citizens.”
  • Staff involved “did not have the fundamental level of knowledge required to perform their duties”, repeatedly failing to escalate concerns; and
  • Officers did not “consistently demonstrate the requisite knowledge, understanding and skills to fairly and lawfully exercise the power to detain.”

Evidence from the review found resourcing issues and management’s focus to “address timeliness and delays rather than ensuring the quality and lawfulness of decisions” were at the root of these problems.

Despite assurances made by departmental officials during Senate Estimates, the report concluded that other Australians may have been wrongly locked up in immigration detention, or even deported.

“It is also quite possible that other Australian citizens have been detained or removed in similar circumstances, including in cases unrelated to cancellation on character grounds.”

Independent review, page 3

 Peter Dutton may have a new job title but it doesn’t detract from the string of scathing reports into his management of the Department. This includes two ANAO reports into garrison support and welfare services on Manus and Nauru, two Commonwealth Ombudsman reports about the management and documentation of people held in detention and an ANAO Cybersecurity follow-up audit.

Australia cannot afford for these systemic failures to continue under tick-and-flick Minister Dutton’s newly-minted Department of Home Affairs.

It’s time Dutton gets across the detail of his portfolio, start paying attention to the management of onshore immigration detention centres and guarantee Australian citizens won’t be detained in immigration detention.