Push to limit immigration detention, ban detaining kids

By Dominic Giannini
Updated November 27 2023 - 3:35am, first published 3:30am
Crossbencher Kylea Tink wants to ban the government from holding children in immigration detention. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)
Crossbencher Kylea Tink wants to ban the government from holding children in immigration detention. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

An independent MP is pushing to limit immigration detention to stop the government from locking people up indefinitely.

Kylea Tink will introduce a private member's bill to reduce the time the government can hold someone in immigration detention to 90 days, as well as banning authorities from detaining children.

After the three-month period, detainees would be able to take a case to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in the absence of a decision by the minister.

The North Sydney MP said she had been working on the bill before the High Court's decision to release more than 90 detainees after ruling indefinite detention was unconstitutional more than a fortnight ago.

But she hopes the renewed focus on immigration and border protection allows for the focus to shift towards a more just system and human rights.

"Many Australians are probably surprised to know that we hold children in detention - it's against international law," she told AAP.

"Children shouldn't be placed in arbitrary detention and they definitely shouldn't be put in arbitrary detention for an indefinite amount of time."

The independent MP said her bill was largely in line with Labor's policy platform to abolish indefinite detention.

"We need to move beyond this mindset of fear and punitive behaviour against people seeking refuge," she said.

The government teamed up with the coalition to pass emergency legislation after the forced release of more than 90 detainees.

The full reasons for the High Court's decision have not been released but the crux of the argument was the government cannot punish criminal guilt, which was solely the court's remit.

Ms Tink said it was a worrying trend when governments tried to impose additional punishment.

"All of us should be relieved to have heard that decision," Ms Tink said.

"When a government starts punishing people, that's what happens in despot regimes ... rather than in a liberal democracy."

The emergency legislation includes measures such as forcing the cohort to wear ankle monitoring blankets and prison time for visa and reporting breaches.

The released cohort includes three murderers and several sex offenders but also spans detainees who had committed minor offences.

Those who had completed their time behind bars were transferred to immigration detention as they awaited deportation but remained in limbo as no other country would take them.

"Crimes, whether committed by a citizen or non-citizen, deserve to be dealt with seriously, that's why we have a court system," Ms Tink said.

"They have served their sentence and moved to detention awaiting removal, we have nowhere to send them.

"As a nation, we have to decide ... whether people can be locked up forever or recognise we have a better way of dealing with those individuals."

It wasn't unimaginable that the government could then decide to extend indefinite detention to other crimes and even to citizens, she said.

Ms Tink encouraged the public to look past the fearmongering used by politicians on immigration and refugee policy and towards measures that would enable the government to police the border in a more effective and humanitarian way.

Australian Associated Press

Get the latest Canberra news in your inbox

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.

We care about the protection of your data. Read our Privacy Policy.