Iron curtain of secrecy over refugee detention centres

“The Abbott Government is erecting an iron curtain of secrecy over what is happening and what has happened in Australia’s immigration detention system,” says barrister and spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, Greg Barns.

“The Australian Border Force Act, supported by the ALP and opposed only by the Greens, effectively turns the Department of Immigration into a secret security organisation with police powers.”

Under the Act, it is a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment of up to two years, for any person working directly or indirectly for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to reveal to the media or any other person or organisation anything that happens in detention centres like the one on Manus Island.

Section 42 of the Act is entitled “Secrecy”.

It provides that a person who is an “entrusted person” commits an offence if he or she makes a record of, or discloses, what is termed protected information.

An “entrusted person” is defined in the Act to mean not only government employees, but also a consultant or contractor.

“Protected information” means any information that a person comes across while working for, or in, detention centres.

Barns said the effect of these provisions will be to deter individuals such as doctors, counsellors, and others who have voiced publicly their concerns about the conditions endured by asylum seekers in detention centres from collecting information about those conditions and then raising their concerns in the community via the media.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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