Government must end its cruel policy of night-time removal of asylum-seeker families to Christmas Island

16 June 2014
Lawyers acting for Australian born-babies say the Federal government has escalated a policy of sudden night-time removals of families to remote Christmas Island, as part of its plan to close down mainland detention centres.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn has written to the Federal Government after learning of five families who were this week taken without notice from Inverbrackie Alternative Place of Detention (APOD) near Adelaide at around 3am.

The firm has written to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison seeking to be urgently notified of their client's current location. The firm has also recently requested that the government provide notice of the removal of their clients from mainland immigration detention centres, a process that regularly interferes with people's ability to access legal advice.

Jacob Varghese, Maurice Blackburn principal, said:

"This inhumane practice is deeply upsetting for families and their very young children. The Department has today confirmed via letter to us that a number of our clients have been moved to Christmas Island. I have been to the detention centre there and it is not suitable for babies and children.

"Our clients are all around two months' old and many have siblings under the age of 5. The parents are just told to pack up and leave, they have no practical opportunity to call their lawyers or others to tell them they are leaving. Their physical and mental health is being affected by this cruel tactic."

"They are already traumatised and live in constant fear of being taken without notice to offshore detention. This practice which the Government  claims is for 'operational reasons" is cruel, inhumane and utterly unnecessary. It creates confusion and fear."

Mr Varghese and social justice lawyer Katie Robertson visited Christmas Island in April where the largest group of Australian-born babies are detained.

The Government agreed it would not send any of the 24 clients on Christmas Island  to off-shore detention until after the resolution of the "Baby Ferouz" case.

This matter is seeking to prevent the removal of an Australian-born baby to a Nauru or Manus Island and will establish whether babies born in Australia are "unauthorised maritime arrivals.

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