A move to introduce legislation allowing the seizure of mobile phones from people held in immigration detention centres is unnecessary and cruel, according to refugee advocates. Source: The Good Oil.
Last month, Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge announced legislation that would give Border Force officials search and seizure powers and allow the minister to ban certain items from the detention facilities, including mobile phones.
Mr Tudge denied it would be a blanket ban, saying it would only apply to those suspected of being involved in illegal activity.
“It’s a policy of cruelty,” said Good Samaritan Sister Clare Condon, who is part of Canberra’s Faith-Based Working Group of the Refugee Action Campaign (RAC).
“Some of these guys have been in detention for seven years and their phone is their only lifeline to their family, friends and others in the community.
“This is just the latest move from the Government to use these people as weapons to try and stop others from seeking Australia’s protection.”
The Faith-Based Working Group (FBWG) of the RAC has representatives from across Christian denominations and, in the past, has included members from the Jewish and Islamic faiths. Its members seek to advocate for refugees and asylum-seekers within their own faith communities, to raise awareness, to mobilise political action and, in some cases, to provide practical support within the local refugee community.
Brigidine Sister Jane Keogh is a member of the group and has worked extensively with refugees over the past 20 years. She said refugee advocates have bought smart phones for the men in detention and pay for phone credit.
“If they take their phones away, how will they talk to their families? They can’t do anything without their phones. And they won’t be able to talk to us,” she said.
“The only way they’ve stayed alive up to now is through us being in contact with them and telling them we’re never giving up, we’re writing letters to politicians, we’re holding protests. But I’m sure it’s that link with people like us that the Government is seeking to stop.”