13 July, 2024
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Urgent review plea over new laws for former detainees

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The Law Council of Australia has added to calls for an urgent review of new laws that could see former long-term immigration detainees face mandatory jail stints and wear ankle monitoring bracelets.

Emergency legislation to change visa rules passed federal parliament on Thursday following a landmark High Court ruling that saw 84 asylum seekers released.

Some murderers and rapists who completed sentences for their crimes in correctional facilities were among the group released, sparking community safety concerns.

Mandatory electronic monitoring and curfews, in addition to mandatory minimum jail terms for people who breach their conditions, were among the six amendments agreed to by the government.

Some former detainees will also be barred from being within 150 metres of a school or daycare centre, while no-contact conditions can be placed on the visas of those who have been convicted of sexual assault or violence offences.

The president of the Law Council of Australia, which represents 90,000 lawyers, said experts in migration, social services and the law must be involved in a review.

“We have strong concerns about the rushed passage of an Act that imposes harsh offence provisions subject to mandatory sentences and draconian limitations on liberty that are disproportionate to the risks it seeks to address,” Luke Murphy said.

He pointed out that people who had completed prison sentences are routinely released into the community.

“The Law Council believes that placing restrictions on the liberties of individuals based on a prediction they may commit a future offence is only legitimate as an extraordinary and appropriately tailored scheme,” he added.

Mr Murphy claimed mandatory sentencing requirements were arbitrary and limited an individual’s right to a fair trial.

“Application of these mandatory sentencing provisions may result in in unjust, harsh and disproportionate sentences where the punishment does not fit the crime,” he said,

“For example, if a person fails to notify the minister of changes to certain personal circumstances.”

Other high-profile critics of the new laws include Asylum Seeker Resource Centre chief executive Kon Karapanagiotidis and Greens leader Adam Bandt.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said the safety of the community remained the highest priority.

“From the moment the High Court handed down its decision we have been implementing measures to keep the community safe,” he told parliament.

The High Court has not released the reasoning behind its decision to overturn a 20-year precedent.

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