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Asylum Seekers - Question Number 216

Asylum Seekers
(Question No. 216)

Senator Hanson-Young asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, upon notice, on 23 November 2010:

(1) (a) How many asylum seekers, who have been found to be in genuine need of protection, are still awaiting their security clearance from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation; and (b) of this number, can a breakdown be provided of the number of asylum seekers that have been held in detention for longer than 3, 6, 9, and 12 months.

(2) When someone is assessed as being in need of Australia's protection, what justification does the department have for their continued and sometimes indefinite detention.

(3) Are advisers that are assigned to detainees required to be legally qualified; if not, are the detainees informed of this fact.

(4) How does the department ensure that case workers are made fully aware of the treatment of minorities by the Iranian Government, particularly its policies for issuing the shenasnameh, which denies Fayli Kurds, Mosafar Arabs and Afghanis the right to hold Iranian identification cards, engage in registered employment, own property, attend official schools, and to have their marriages recognised by the state.

(5) What avenues are open to detainees to request replacement translators if they believe translations are inaccurate or misleading at any stage of the process.

(6) Has trauma counselling been provided to detainees in the aftermath of the recent suicides in the Villawood detention facility.

(7) Is the medical clinic at the Villawood detention facility staffed at night; if
not, why not.

(8) Is it correct, that following the suicide of detainee Mr Josefa Rauluni in September 2010, an area of concrete onto which Mr Rauluni jumped has been dug up, but that no other measures to deal with mental health problems of detainees have been instituted

(9) If measures have been instituted to provide appropriate mental health assistance to detainees, what are those measures.

(10) Is mail addressed to detainees intercepted; if so, have Serco management or government representatives withheld mail from detainees.

(11) Has mail from legal representatives of detainees been withheld from detainees; if so, why has it been withheld.


Senator Carr: The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) (a) As at 10 May 2011, 488 people who have been found to be refugees have outstanding security assessments. (b) Of these assessments:
- 0 have been in detention for less than 3 months;
- 21 have been in immigration detention for between three and six months;
- 113 have been in immigration detention for between six and nine months;
- 133 have been in immigration detention for between nine and 12 months; and
- 221 have been in immigration detention for longer than 12 months.

(2) To be released from immigration detention any non-citizen, including any irregular maritime arrival, must be granted a visa. Before a visa can be granted by the department, all non-citizens have to meet stringent health, character, and national security requirements as prescribed in the Migration Regulations 1994. Depending on the complexity of the case some of the processing related to those requirements may take a considerable period of time.

(3) Under Australian law (the Migration Act 1958), only persons registered as a migration agent, or persons considered to be "officials" under the Act may provide immigration advice and application assistance. There is no requirement in the legislation that migration agents be legally qualified, although many are legal practitioners as well.
The Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS) contracts require, under Item J of the contract Schedule, that IAAAS services may only be undertaken by a Registered Migration Agent or by a person who is an "official" within the meaning of s.275 of the Act.
IAAAS providers must ensure that clients thoroughly understand the services they are being offered, including that those who assist them under the IAAAS are registered migration agents delivering a professional and independent service. Clients must also sign an acknowledgement that they have fully understood the services to be provided by their IAAAS provider. The same contract requirement to fully explain the services applies to all clients, including those who are irregular maritime arrivals (IMAs) and mainstream visa applicants.

(4) The department's Country Research Section (CRS) identifies, collects and maintains quality country of origin information (COI) from a wide range of reputable sources, for use by Protection visa decision makers. This includes material from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), other United Nations agencies, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, other governments (such as the US State Department Human Rights reports and UK Home Office Country reports) and international non-government organisations focussing on human rights issues such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Decision makers have regular training, including on information retrieval from the department's COI holdings, and can undertake their own research and engage CRS on specific research questions on claims raised in individual cases.

(5) The majority of the interpreters the department uses are National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) accredited. On rare occasions interpreters who are not formally accredited by NAATI might be used, however, only where a NAATI- accredited interpreter is not available. All interpreters used by the Department are bound by the strict Code of Ethic developed by the Australia Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT).
Where a client has objections based on language in relation to their allocated interpreter or believes the interpreter's services to be inaccurate or misleading at any point during the processing of their case, the client is able to raise these objections or issues with their case manager or agent. The department's interpreter liaison officer, at the facility in which the client is accommodated, will then endeavour to replace the interpreter. If necessary, and where appropriate, a client may be re-interviewed.
In cases when a client raises concerns once an interview has been completed, the department will review the circumstances and in consultation with the client's agent or legal representative decide whether it is appropriate to re-interview the client using a different interpreter.

(6) The department's contracted Detention Health Services Provider, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) has advised the following in relation to the number of people in immigration detention receiving counselling due to recent deaths at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (VIDC):
- Following the death of a man on 20 September 2010, nine clients have received (or continue to receive) counselling by IHMS. No clients requested or were referred to specialised torture and trauma counselling.
- Following the death of a man on 16 November 2010, 17 clients have received (or continue to receive) counselling by IHMS. Two clients have been receiving specialised torture and trauma counselling.
Additional mental health staff were rostered for a period of five days immediately following the death on 16 November 2010, to provide support to people in immigration detention and Detention Service Provider staff. As an example, on 16 November 2010, the team comprised:
- Mental Health Team Leader
- Two trauma specialised Psychologists (which were also made available to Detention Service Provider staff)
- Two IHMS Psychologists
- Two Counsellors
- One Mental Health Nurse
The IHMS Regional Medical Director also attended the site to provide additional support and clinical leadership. The on-site teams were provided with on-going support by the department's Detention Health Operations team and the IHMS corporate headquarters.

(7) Health services at VIDC run according to a community care model. The Health Services Provider provides two registered-nurse led health clinics per day, six days per week. GP clinics are also offered for five hours per day, five days a week. Clients also have ready access to a Mental Health Team comprising mental health nurses and a clinical psychologist. Emergency and after-hours medical services for people in immigration detention are provided by local hospitals and ambulance services. Outside of clinic hours, Detention Services Provider staff are also able to call the Detention Health Services Provider's Nurse Triage Assistance Line, to receive advice about any non-urgent health concerns. The contracted Detention Health Services Provider has advised the department that these services are sufficient to meet the needs of people in immigration detention at VIDC outside of clinic hours.
(8) No, the area of concrete has not been dug up.
The deaths of the two individuals in September and November 2010 will be examined by the NSW State Coroner. The department will act on any recommendations or conclusions made by the official investigations into the deaths.
The department and the Detention Health Services Provider are continually reviewing their processes and a number of operational changes have been implemented - se response to question 9 below.

(9) The Department's contracted Health Service Provider, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), has made a number of operational changes following the three deaths and subsequent protests at Villawood IDC.
From 29 November 2010, a new mental health policy reflecting better practice approaches for the identification and support of people in immigration detention who are at risk of self-harm and suicide-the Psychological Support Program (PSP) - was operationalised at Villawood IDC. This new policy replaced the existing 'Suicide and Self Harm' (SASH) Protocol. At the time of transition to this new policy, clients at Villawood IDC who were being monitored under the previous SASH protocol, were transferred to PSP, according to clinical need and associated risk level.

From a staffing perspective, from November 2010, increases were made to mental health staff numbers at Villawood IDC. Increased supports were also put in place to manage crisis situations, with processes streamlined to better support people who may have witnessed traumatic events. This includes conducting group debriefings, which use routine mental health and psychological screening (and language appropriate) tools to identify 'at risk' clients. In addition, daily collaborative stakeholder meetings are now also held, with a focus on clients who are placed on PSP, as well as preventative health. This also includes multi-disciplinary care planning for all clients developed via group meetings, with input provided by DIAC case management, Serco, IHMS, the specialist torture and trauma provider and other providers, as necessary. This has resulted in better profiling of clients to ensure a client's total psychosocial history is understood. It also allows for more active management of clients by pro-actively improving emotional health skills and managing any identified risks.

From a health promotion perspective, IHMS counsellors are continuing to develop mental health promotion materials and tools in discussion with the Department, including:
- Services available to help with stress management;
- Raising the awareness of mental health matters; and
- Explaining that mental health is about helping people manage 'stress' during difficult times.

In addition, counsellors are running practical relaxation groups as well as sessions on drug and alcohol education and management.
Furthermore, all personnel who work with people in immigration detention are trained to recognise and respond to the warning signs and risk factors of self-harm and the deterioration of mental health. The department has also provided around 1200 personnel from seven different organisations involved in the care and management of people in immigration detention with specific training in the operation of three new mental health policies that the department has rolled-out to all immigration detention facilities during 2010. The policies reflect best practice approaches to identifying existing mental health issues, identifying survivors of torture and trauma, and to providing psychological support to, and preventing self-harm by people in immigration detention.

(10) Where there is suitable equipment, such as X-Ray units, mail will be scanned. If there is suspicion that mail may contain illegal items Serco can request the mail be opened, by the client, in their presence. If the client refuses, then Serco can withhold the item a and report it to the department's Regional Manager.

(11) No.

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