Media Statement: We need a royal commission into immigration detention

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties supports the campaign for a Royal Commission into
Immigration Detention – including onshore and offshore detention on Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

The campaign for a Royal Commission into Immigration Detention is being launched at Parliament
House in Canberra on Tuesday 28 November 2023, hosted by Kylea Tink, Member for North Sydney.

Comments from Lydia Shelly, President, NSW Council for Civil Liberties

Our mandatory, arbitrary immigration detention regime is unnecessarily cruel and degrading. Instead of
offering refuge for those who seek the safety of our shores, we imprison people, strip them of their
humanity and allow them to be demonised in our media and by our politicians. It is a system that
conditions the Australian public to dehumanise others. This cruelty has persisted for decades.

Mandatory immigration detention is inconsistent with our human rights obligations. It is a system built on
secrecy, a system that lacks accountability, transparency and undermines our country’s reputation.

Our treatment of children was especially shameful, with our mandatory immigration detention regime
creating the perfect breeding ground for sexual exploitation, violence, and psychological harm. This was
not designed by accident, but rather was imbedded in the scaffolding of mandatory immigration
detention. The treatment of children in mandatory immigration detention remains a dark stain on our
national consciousness.

We know that Australia has long experienced an epidemic of violence against women – and vulnerable
women in immigration detention have also borne the brunt of gendered violence. The “Nauru Files”
revealed disturbing incident reports that included the sexual assault of women, the use of coercive and
controlling behaviour over women in detention and the psychological harm that women suffered as a

The cost of mandatory immigration detention is staggering – but the human cost is a scandal.
We must face the truth about the extent of this cruelty if we are ever to move forward as a country.
We must know the truth about what was known by those we trusted in Government if we are ever to
stand a chance that what has occurred in our name does not happen again.

We have an opportunity to step away from this shameful chapter of our country’s history.

That opportunity rests with a Royal Commission into Immigration Detention.