Statement on Christmas Island immigration detention

The Australian Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned that the Australian Border Force plans to re-open the immigration detention facility at Christmas Island.

The Commission has carried out inspections of Australia’s onshore and offshore immigration detention facilities for many years. The Commission’s advice has been consistent: Christmas Island is not an appropriate place for an immigration detention facility.

“Christmas Island is remote, with limited access to facilities and services, especially for people who are vulnerable or have been detained for long periods of time,” said Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow.

“The human rights risks of immigration detention at Christmas Island are even greater in the current pandemic as there is only limited medical care available on the Island. An outbreak of COVID-19 could be catastrophic for the people in detention, staff and the community there.”

Australian Border Force has stated that the reason for transferring some detainees to Christmas Island is to relieve pressure across the immigration detention network. The Commission has called for people in Australian immigration detention facilities who do not pose a security risk to the community to be released to community detention.

This is also the advice of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases and the Australian College of Infection Prevention and Control.

“Infectious diseases experts have advised that those immigration detainees who do not pose a significant security or health risk should be released into housing in the community. The Commission supports this recommendation,” said Commissioner Santow.

“We do not support the removal of detainees to Christmas Island as a solution to overcrowding in immigration detention.”

The Commission’s most recent inspection report from Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre is available online here.

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