CityHub: “Everyone has the right to seek asylum”: NSWCCL speaks out on preventative detention

On November 8, asylum seekers in immigration detention were released following a High Court ruling deeming indefinite immigration detention unlawful due to the 'NZYQ' case. This ruling resulted in the immediate release of 141 detainees.

Shortly after the court's legal justifications were made public, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil disclosed the Labor Party's intent to “finalise a tough preventive detention regime before parliament rises.”. The Albanese Government is currently proposing preventive detention laws to re-incarcerate individuals previously released, some of whom have been involved in serious offenses.

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) has expressed serious concerns with the government seeking to preventively detain refugees who were released in November.


NSWCCL released a media statement expressing their concern “by the haste at which the government is seeking to preventively detain refugees who were released as a consequence of NZYQ v Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs & Anor [2023] HCA 37.”

President of NSWCCL Lydia Shelly said, “The Council does not support preventive detention in any form. Indefinite detention is contrary to human rights law, despite Australian courts having allowed this form of cruelty to endure for twenty years.”

“The recent comments made by the Minister for Home Affairs that were made only three hours after NZYQ, as well as the Minister’s threats to essentially hold parliament hostage by refusing to allow parliament to conclude until a new preventative detention regime is rammed through parliament, is appalling and should be condemned,” she continued.

“A flagrant disregard of our human rights obligations” 

Ms Shelly said, “The Council had expected the Albanese Government to abolish the decades long practice of politicians politicising and demonising refugees. We are saddened that there appears no difference in the Albanese Government and the Opposition – both parties are seeking to reinforce regimes that we know to be expensive and cruel. We have no doubt that the Australian public shares our disappointment.”

NSWCCL has written letters to the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS), as well as the Attorney-General, the Minister for Home Affairs, the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, urging them to pause efforts to create a new preventive detention regime until PJCIS has completed the “Review of post-sentence terrorism orders: Division 105A of the Criminal Code Act 1995”.

Ms Shelly warned, “If the government races towards introducing a new regime of preventative detention, it demonstrates a flagrant disregard of our human rights obligations. By introducing a new regime of preventative detention before the PJCIS inquiry concludes, it risks usurping the parliamentary process that is in place to safeguard the values of liberal democracy.”

“Everyone has the right to seek asylum,” she emphasised, “even people with criminal antecedents and people who commit crimes once they have been granted protection.

“Everyone is deserving of protection, should circumstances arise where it is required, under the Refugee Convention without qualification. Indefinite detention constituted arbitrary detention and, at least, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

“This may be a political inconvenience, but it remains a fact. A fact that should not be forgotten.”


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