Labor dancing to Dutton’s racist tune on immigration detainees—again

On 7 June, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles caved in yet again to the Coalition’s relentless racist campaigning against immigration detainees.

Giles, once known for speaking at refugee rallies, is now bragging that he has cancelled 30 visas in the first week of June. Dutton is calling the shots from Opposition. In the face of Opposition scare-mongering, Giles introduced Direction 110 to guide decision-makers reviewing visa cancellations of non-citizens.

According to the Minister’s press release, Direction 110 (which replaces Direction 99) is guided by “two key principles; the protection of the Australian community and common sense”. The truth is that it is guided by political expediency and racist discrimination against non-citizens.

It means we can expect to see a return to the situation that will see non-citizens, mostly New Zealanders, deported to their home countries even if they have lived most of their lives in Australia, have no connections to their “home” country and in some cases will not even know the language.

Direction 99 demanded that decision-makers’ primary consideration must be “the strength, nature and duration of ties to Australia”. At the time Giles also called that a “common sense approach”.

It was a very small step to counter the effects of the fundamentally discriminatory section 501 of the Migration Act that mandatorily cancels the visas of non-citizens if they have been sentenced to a year in jail (or cumulative sentences that add up to a year).

But Labor has now given up on alleviating even the worst of the abuses inflicted by Morrison and Dutton.

Home Affairs has 47 lawyers working on ways to re-detain immigration detainees who were released when indefinite detention was outlawed by the High Court. But despite Labor’s promise that all the refugees on temporary protection visas would have their permanent visas by February, hundreds are still waiting.

Since mandatory cancellations came into effect in 2014, the number of visas cancelled increased by 660 per cent in the first year, a further 60 per cent in 2015-16, and another 31 per cent in 2016-17.

Since the High Court ruled against indefinite detention in the now famous NZYQ case, the Coalition has been on a relentless campaign. According to shadow Home Affairs minister, James Patterson, released detainees have been on a “crime spree”.

Twenty-eight of 153 former immigration detainees released on the basis of NZYQ have been charged with offences under state laws, some for alleged serious offences, some to do with breaking curfew or rules about the ankle bracelet imposed on them when they were released.

Dutton and Patterson are making a racist song and dance about 20 per cent of the detainees (28 out of 153) allegedly re-offending.

However, national statistics showed that 51.7 per cent of released prisoners had returned to prison within two years in 2022-23, more than double the rate of immigration detainees.

Pandering to racism

Rather than standing up to Dutton, Albanese and Giles have been pandering to the Liberals’ racist campaign. Albanese and Dutton engaged in a tit-for-tat blame game after it was revealed that a second person accused of a Perth home invasion had been released in 2020 when Peter Dutton was immigration minister.

Giles was so desperate to please Dutton and look tough, he made an idiot of himself falsely claiming drones were monitoring the whereabouts of released immigration detainees.

Meanwhile Labor’s deportation bill is scheduled to return to the Parliament on 24 June.

If passed the bill will re-establish indefinite detention by the back door. People whose visas have been cancelled and do not co-operate with their own removal will be liable for mandatory prison sentences of between one and four years.

Thousands of asylum seekers who were refused protection under Morrison’s misnamed “fast track” processing will be caught by the terms of the bill and will be liable for removal.

There is precious little to show for two years of Labor government. Albanese and Dutton talk a lot about keeping the Australian community “safe”. But this is just code for refugee-bashing and the racist vilification of immigration detainees.

To keep asylum seekers, refugees and immigration detainees safe, Labor’s deportation bill must be scrapped along with the discriminatory section 501 of the Migration Act.

Asylum seekers in Melbourne were planning three days of protest outside the Oakleigh office of Home Affairs Minister, Clare O’Neil, as Solidarity went to press.

Melbourne’s Refugee Action Collective has organised a speak out on Friday 21 June. In Brisbane and Sydney refugee action groups are holding rallies on Saturday 22 June, calling for the deportation bill to be scrapped and for permanent visas for all refugees.

By Ian Rintoul


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