Detention stuff-ups no surprise to Edmund Rice researchers

"When Australia deports people, it has not got a clue of what happens to them," said Phil Glendenning of the Edmund Rice Centre for Social Justice, following last week's revelation of the deportation of an Australian citizen whom the Department of Immigration believed was an illegal immigrant.

At least 33 Australians have been wrongfully detained in the past two years, the Government revealed last night, as it continued its hunt for a deported Australian woman missing overseas.

Dubious practices of the Department were brought to light late last year with the case of Australian citizen Cornelia Rau, who was wrongfully detained for several months.

Acting Immigration Minister Peter McGauran said the incidents occurred between July 2003 and February last year.

The figure included the case of the missing woman who was deported to the country of her birth four years ago.

Mr Glendenning said it was usual for an official to accompany the deportee to their destination and then leave them. They could not say goodbye to friends and relatives and were often sent to countries where they had no connections.

In its Deported to Danger report released last year as part of ongoing research it is conducting in collaboration with the Australian Catholic University, the Christian Brothers' Edmund Rice Centre for Social Justice claimed that Australia has deported at least 35 rejected asylum seekers into dangerous situations, and needs to urgently reform its refugee protection system.

In their push to get rid of detainees, the report said authorities "often took a reckless" view of the dangers they faced once deported.

Meanwhile Acting Immigration Minister McGauran said that the cases have prompted the Government to expand the terms of reference of its inquiry - headed by former Australian Federal Police chief Mick Palmer - into the case of Cornelia Rau.

Ms Rau, a mentally ill German-born, Australian resident, spent 10 months in detention as an illegal immigrant.

Mr McGauran said Australian authorities were making extensive efforts to locate the missing woman.

The Immigration Department only became aware of her wrongful deportation after a family member approached it.

"It's a distressing case. We know what happened but we don't know why it happened," Mr McGauran said. But a human rights group said it was not surprising the woman was missing.

The Democrats' Senator Andrew Bartlett yesterday told the ABC's World Today: "There are serious questions about the validity of documents that are used even to deport asylum seekers, and there's a group - the Edmund Rice Centre - that's followed up a lot of people who've been deported and have raised serious questions about the validity of some of the documents that've been provided and produced by DIMIA."

More Australians mistakenly detained (The Age 3/5/05)
More cases of wrongful detention uncovered after Rau incident (ABC Radio The World Today 2/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Edmund Rice Centre | Deported to Danger: What happens to Australia's rejected asylum seekers?

Church call for scrutiny of plight of all detainees (CathNews 11/2/05)
Refugee advocate tells Jesuit seminar that democracy requires honesty (CathNews 24/2/05)
Fears for Bakhtiyaris' safety after deportation (CathNews 24/12/04)
Edmund Rice Centre claims at least 35 refugees sent back to danger (CathNews 29/9/04)

East Timorese to be removed from Australia (Edmund Rice Centre 27/4/05)

3 May 2005