Rule of law: a new framework to challenge immigration detention policies in Australia

Detention of persons Right of asylum Australia Middle East Great Britain

As of 30 September 2013, there were a staggering 9,644 people in immigration detention in Australia, the vast majority of whom arrived in Australia without a visa by plane or by boat. Of those 9,644 people being detained, 6,403 were in high security prison-like facilities.  In addition, since August 2012, when the government reinstituted a policy of off-shore detention and processing in Nauru and Manus Island, hundreds of asylum seekers have been transferred to temporary facilities in these locations.

The Australian law, policy and practice of mandatory immigration detention, first established in 1992, has been the subject of regular criticism from the UNHCR (0), the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), and non-government organisations with a concern for human rights such as Amnesty International and Oxfam. Despite this human rights-based criticism, the government has not been swayed to change its policy. There is an alternative framework through which to view Australia’s immigration detention policy: the framework of the rule of law. This framework promises more than just human rights protection. In Europe, the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law in London recently published a new report analysing immigration detention against rule of law principles.

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