Immigration detainees not charged under emergency laws

By Dominic Giannini
Updated February 12 2024 - 6:59pm, first published 6:54pm
No released immigration detainees charged with crimes are back behind bars under emergency laws. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)
No released immigration detainees charged with crimes are back behind bars under emergency laws. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

Two dozen people have been charged with crimes after being released from immigration detention but none have been jailed under emergency laws.

Seven murderers and 37 sex offenders were among those released from custody, it was revealed on Monday.

Powers rushed through parliament in December allowed the responsible minister to apply for community safety or supervision orders.

Under the orders, freed detainees could be locked up or subject to strict surveillance.

But as of January 31, no applications had been made to enforce the powers.

A High Court ruling on indefinite immigration detention triggered the release of 149 people.

Seven had committed murder and attempted murder, 37 sexual-based offending, including child sex offending; 72 assault and violent offending, including kidnapping and armed robbery, 16 domestic violence and stalking and 13 serious drug offending.

Fewer than five were involved in people smuggling and fewer than five were involved in low level or no criminal offences.

Broader supervision measures that carried a prison sentence for breaching were also imposed by the legislation.

As of January 31, 113 released detainees had ankle monitoring bracelets and were subject to curfews.

None have been re-detained in immigration detention due to there being no prospect of them being resettled in another country.

Australia has been knocked back by Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada.

Discussions with the US are ongoing.

Seven people have been re-arrested and charged for breaching visa conditions under the new laws as of Monday.

An additional 18 have been charged by state and territory police forces for other offences as of February 1.

Opposition spokesman James Paterson questioned whether preventative detention could have stopped some of the alleged re-offending.

"This is a shocking failure on community safety and national security," he told reporters in Canberra.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles defended his record, saying community safety was paramount and the government had brought together highly respected law enforcement officers to provide advice on combating the threat.

"We also have now four layers of protection including stringent visa conditions, electronic monitoring and curfew arrangements as well as preventative arrangements," he told parliament.

"We have been working around the clock to ensure the community is kept safe."

The Australian Border Force commissioner confirmed the advisory board had met seven times since it was stood up in December, the last of which was January 25.

Home Affairs' legal group manager Clare Sharpe said it took time to put an application together due to the high evidence threshold and there being tens of thousands of documents to shift through per person.

"It's critical to a successful application to get that information right," she told a parliamentary hearing.

Only two applications for preventative detention under a similar scheme had been successful and the quickest it took to prepare was 10 months.

Minister Murray Watt said it was unrealistic to expect the Labor government to do in two months what the coalition did in five times as long.

"We want to do it in a way that gives us the best chance of them standing up in court," he said.

More than 20 staff and a team of lawyers from the Australian Government Solicitor's office have worked on the applications, which were well advanced, according to Home Affairs head Stephanie Foster.

A parliamentary committee chaired by Labor MP Josh Burns slammed the prevention detention laws as potential overreach and breach of human rights.

More than $13 million had been spent managing the released detainees following the High Court decision.

Australian Associated Press