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<nettime> Ruddock unveils law to strip-search detainees
ben moretti on 6 Apr 2001 04:01:27 -0000

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<nettime> Ruddock unveils law to strip-search detainees

((I don't know if anyone not in Australia has seen images of these detention
camps, but they are basically concentration camps in the desert. Australia has
an extraordinarily racist past -- from settlers hunting aboriginies, through
the white australia policy and detaining italian immigrants during WWII, and
now this. Ben))


Ruddock unveils law to strip-search detainees  

Friday 6 April 2001

Guards will be given the power to strip-search detained illegal migrants -
including children as young as 10 - under proposed legislation aimed at
quelling unrest in Australia's migrant detention centres.

Refugees who escape from detention centres could be jailed for up to five
years - three years longer than the present maximum term.

Strip searches will be allowed when guards believe a detainee is carrying a
hidden weapon. Body cavity searches will be prohibited.

Unveiling the legislation yesterday, Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock
said the government could not ignore or tolerate the "violent and
threatening actions" of some immigration detainees. The extra powers were
needed to discourage and better manage violent behavior, he told Federal

"There have been violent protests, burning of buildings, assaults on
officers and other detainees and mass escapes," he said. 

"The violent actions of some detainees have endangered both other detainees
and staff, and caused considerable damage to Commonwealth property."

The proposed tough new law's first public airing came just hours after the
latest detention centre riot - this one at the remote Curtin Detention
Centre in Western Australia.

In a rampage lasting nearly two hours, about 200 detainees lit fires that
destroyed at least two buildings and knocked down fences. 

Police from Derby attended the scene but left after learning that no
detainees had escaped.

Key features of the proposed law include:

An increase in the prison term for detention centre escapees from two to five

Strip searches to be made in detention centres for the first time.

Three-year jail terms for detainees who have weapons.

Mr Ruddock told parliament that strip searches would not be undertaken "as a
matter of routine".

Detainees would be clearly advised of the nature and reason for a search, and
only senior Immigration Department officers could authorise a strip search.

Mr Ruddock said: "There must be strong reasons for undertaking such a search.
It is a measure of last resort, to be used only in exceptional circumstances."

When a strip search is to be conducted on a child aged 10 to 17, the
child's parent or guardian must be in attendance. If that is not acceptable
to the detainee, or not possible, the child must be represented by somebody

The Australian Democrats and Amnesty International slammed the legislation.
Democrats immigration spokesman Andrew Bartlett said it would make detention
centre conditions worse.

Amnesty International spokesman Graham Thom said: "The vast majority of
recent arrivals have been found to be genuine refugees, in which case they
may have suffered torture or trauma. How do you convince a 10-year-old
child who has fled Afghanistan or Iraq and ... then is subjected to a strip
search, that the country he has arrived at is any different to the country
he or she has fled?" he said.

Opposition immigration spokesman Con Sciacca said Labor would oppose strip
searches for 10-year-olds.

ben moretti 
mailto:bmoretti {AT} chariot.net.au

news and events in adelaide: 

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