End the shame and legislate a detention time limit

3 April 2012

End the shame and legislate a detention time limit

The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence. (Article 31, (1))

What is it about Article 31 in the Refugee Convention that successive Australian governments find so hard to accept?

‘Article 14’ – words and music by Tony Mockeridge

After all we signed the convention and every time we load a man, woman or child into the van on the jetty at Christmas Island and then transport and lock them up for an indefinite period in detention, we break that promise.

The 31 recommendations made by the Joint Select Committee into Detention will change nothing for the thousands of people suffering in detention without legislated time limits on their incarceration. Never has the force of law been more urgent. Doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists have all named three months as the outside limit of time when people crack, when the “detention sickness” infects the mind and depression and hopelessness set in. Those of us who visit regularly know this only too well.

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