Alternatives to Mandatory Detention

There are alternatives to mandatory detention.
These people did not have to be detained. Especially not with the “Pacific Solution!”
Are we now going to have more people feeling caged in Nauru?

children who were detained on Nauru protest

“We detainees request from human Australian to release us from Nauru cage”
Years of waiting took their toll on asylum seekers. There are still two men there! They are suffering. (April 2006)


— There were many changes in the first half of 2005. But the policy of mandatory detention still applies. Much of the change has been in ministerial discretion. These discretionary powers were always there. It was not exercised until the government was prepared to allow the minister to exercise it. These comments on alternatives to mandatory detention are still applicable. —

Alternatives to mandatory detention — Petra Weber’s 2003 summary for the Refugee Action Committee of alternative models proposed by refugee and human rights organisations.

Links to further reading

Time for a commonsense detention policy By Tim Martyn – posted Monday, April 04, 2005 in online opinion. A summary of statistics and costs of mandatory detention and discussion of “community-assessment”.

There are alternatives to mandatory detention – by Sarah Stephen; from Green Left Weekly, March 13, 2002.

Asylum Seekers in Sweden: An integrated approach to reception, detention, determination, integration and return – by Grant Mitchell. “Sweden has been successful in building a functioning reception process that allows for a just and humane treatment of asylum seekers while they await a decision, addresses national security concerns and effectively removes failed refugee-claimants.” (August 2001)

Alternative detention model submitted by the Justice for Asylum Seekers (JAS) Detention Reform Working Group to HREOC’s National Iinquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. (JAS is an alliance of Victorian groups working for refugees.)

Amnesty International Australia‘s Fact Sheets on mandatory detention and alternatives to detention. “Australia is the only Western country that has mandatory detention for asylum seekers arriving without valid documentation.”

Developing Just Refugee Policies in Australia: Local, National and International Concerns – speech by Father Frank Brennan to Rural Australians for Refugees in Bowral, August 25th 2002. “Much of our present government rhetoric is posited on the presumption that all boat people, even those who are refugees, are engaged in secondary movement for non-persecutory reasons. They are all assumed to be persons seeking a migration outcome, trying to jump the queue. That is also the underlying assumption in the legislation and policy directions. We now treat them as criminals until they can prove that they are refugees, locking them up as a deterrent, locking them up in the desert and sending a message to their countrymen.”

An alternative to indefinite mandatory detention of asylum seekers – by Chris Sidoti, former Human Rights Commissioner (April 2002).

Alternatives to Detention from the Refugee Council of Australia

Those who’ve come across the seas: detention of unauthorized arrivals – HREOC’s report on mandatory detention, tabled in federal Parliament on 12 May 1998, includes an alternative model – PDF(1.6 Mb)

An alternative policy by Peter Mares, ABC broadcaster and author of ‘Borderline: Australia’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers’, “It is not true that the only substitute to Australia’s current harsh regime is to abandon national sovereignty and open borders to all comers.” – from the Unfinished Journeys site.

Rethinking the Refugee Crisis by Neville J. Roach AO (who resigned as chairman of the Council for Multicultural Australia) – from the Bulletin magazine, Feb 6 2002. “Australia has so far failed to solve its asylum-seeker problem. Former government adviser Neville J. Roach suggests replacing hysteria with humanitarianism. ” – Proposes a ten-point alternative approach.

NO DETENTION is “a group of refugee rights supporters in Australia advocating an alternative policy without any locking up of asylum seekers.”