Thu. May 23rd, 2024

‘Unsafe’ immigration detention centre labelled ‘not fit for purpose’ in new report

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May8,2024
Key Points
  • A new report has raised serious concerns about conditions at the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre.
  • Most of the interviewed detainees told Australian Human Rights Commission inspectors they felt unsafe in detention.
  • Among the concerns was a lack of access to healthcare, including emergency, out-of-hours and mental health services.
Drug trafficking and inadequate health care at a are among the serious concerns raised by Australian Human Rights Commission inspectors.
Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay led inspectors on a two-day site visit to the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre in the remote town of Northam, about 95km northeast of Perth, in May 2023.
A report of their findings was released on Monday.

“Parts of Yongah Hill are no longer fit for purpose,” Finlay said. “A majority of the people interviewed told us that they felt unsafe in detention.”

“The welfare and safety of both detainees and staff must be paramount but there must be a nuanced approach,” Finlay added. “Safety is about how you treat people, not just how you keep them secure.”
The report, released on Monday, found there was a concerning “lack of access to healthcare”, including emergency, out-of-hours, and mental health services, which presented “a very significant risk to people detained”.
Many of those being held at the centre were detained due to visa cancellations based on character grounds.

Finlay said the cohort of people entering immigration detention had changed significantly over time.

A woman in a black jacket sitting behind a microphone

Australian Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay. Source: AAP / Mick Tsikas

As of December 2023, there were 872 people in immigration detention nationwide, most of them men. The average time spent in detention was about 625 days, substantially higher than in the United Kingdom and countries such as Canada.

Inspectors reported a rise in behaviours frequently associated with the prison system, including the trafficking of drugs and other contraband, bullying and standover tactics, and violence.
The 80-page report also found a lack of access to health care including emergency, out-of-hours, and mental health services presented a significant risk to detainees.

The well-being of detainees at Yongah Hill was closely linked to overall safety at the centre, the report noted, with some of those who were interviewed saying they had been harassed or intimidated by staff.

They told the commission they were afraid of speaking out because they were allegedly threatened with points deductions. The centre has a points system whereby detainees who participate in structured activities receive points that can be exchanged for items through the centre’s canteen.
The commission made 33 recommendations to the Department of Home Affairs aimed at improving conditions at Yongah Hill and all other immigration detention centres under Australian jurisdiction.

The recommendations included reducing the use of physical restraints such as handcuffs during medical transfers, increasing staff at some compounds, bolstering search powers for staff where there was reasonable suspicion of drug concealment and an independent review of health care services.

The commission cautioned that drug infiltration and substance misuse was “a multi-faceted and complex issue” adding it “cannot simply be resolved through tighter security measures”.
Home Affairs accepted or partially agreed with 20 of the 33 recommendations and disagreed with seven, with the remaining six requiring government consideration.
In a statement to SBS News, a spokesperson said: “the Department [of Home Affairs] values the role of the Australian Human Rights Commission to inspect and monitor the conditions in detention facilities from a compliance perspective of Australia’s obligations under international human rights law.”

“The Department has considered and provided a formal response to each of the recommendations made in the report,” the spokesperson added.

In that response, the department said it “takes seriously the safety and security of staff and detainees at immigration detention centres” and “continually assesses program and policy settings and adjusts processes and risk management measures as required”.
In response to recommendations that the department decommission the high-security compounds at Yongah Hill and replace them with multiple smaller low-security compounds, it said it “is exploring options for infrastructure improvements at this facility, noting that projects would require significant financial resourcing”.
The inspection came six months who couldn’t be moved to another country could not be held in indefinite immigration detention.

“It is essential to ensure that community safety is not compromised, but also that the policy responses adopted are measured, proportionate and anchored firmly in respect for the human rights of all concerned,” Finlay said.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “‘Unsafe’ immigration detention centre labelled ‘not fit for purpose’ in new report”
  1. Is there any plan in place to address the issues raised in the report regarding the lack of access to healthcare at the detention centre?

  2. I believe it’s imperative that the conditions at the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre are improved immediately. The safety and well-being of detainees must be a top priority. It’s unacceptable that there is a lack of access to healthcare services, putting people at serious risk. Action needs to be taken swiftly to address these concerning issues.

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