Refugee Action Collective (Vic)

Free the refugees! Let them land, let them stay!

Category 2016 Media Releases

MEDIA RELEASE: Federal Court rules asylum seekers can keep mobile phones in detention

MEDIA RELEASE: Federal Court rules asylum seekers can keep mobile phones in detention

Federal Court rules asylum seekers can keep mobile phones in detention

17 March 2017

The Federal Court in Sydney today (17 March 2017) has ruled that asylum seekers have the right to continue their legal fight to keep their mobile phones while in onshore immigration detention, following a class action brought by human rights lawyers the National Justice Project to prevent Serco and Border Force from seizing detainee phones.

Border Force had planned to confiscate all detainee phones and SIM cards on 19 February 2017, but were prevented by an temporary injunction obtained by the National Justice Project on behalf of all detainees with phones in detention. The government challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to hear the application but that challenge has been dismissed and the case can now proceed.

National Justice Project Principal Solicitor George Newhouse, while welcoming today’s decision, emphasised that this is an ongoing matter and that the Government is likely to appeal, saying:

“This is a small but important victory, but it’s a long journey ahead and we’re up against a Government that will oppose human rights at every turn.”

Newhouse continued, “Seeking asylum does not make you a criminal. Mobile phones provide asylum seekers with vital access to the outside world, to loved ones and to advocates – their mental health and their families depend on this. The blanket ban on phones punishes innocent men, women and children and demonstrates the increasing criminalisation by this Government of asylum seekers who have committed no crime.”
Prior to this recent policy change, asylum seekers who
arrived by air had a right to mobile phones as long as they have no camera or recording facility. The new policy would see all phones confiscated and anyone found in onshore detention with a phone punished.

George Newhouse, Principal Solicitor, National Justice Project 0422255109
Notes to editor
The National Justice Project is a law firm whose mission is to promote social justice, liberty, accountability and equality for all people.
twitter: @NJP_au


Refugee Action Coalition





More than 200 refugees on Manus Island have signed a letter (text below, photos attached) calling for a Royal Commission to fully investigate IHMS (the Manus detention medical provider contracted to the Australian government) and its political control by Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Shortcomings and negligence by IHMS and the DIBP have already been revealed by the inquest into the death of Hamid Khazaie, the refugee who died in Brisbane in 2014, after being transferred from Manus.

Calls are growing for a Royal Commission into IHMS, the lack of facilities and the culture of dismissal and neglect that characterises medical services on Manus Island.

“We waited two years for the inquest into the death of Hamid Khazaie. The asylum seekers and refugees cannot wait another two years for another inquest. The revelations of the inquiry into Hamid’s death in 2014 have been horrifying. 


“That urgent medical decisions are not made by medical staff but require the sanction of Border Force officials are the kind of Machiavellian arrangements that are concerned with political control, not care. 


“They cry crocodile tears over deaths at sea while their  punitive control of offshore detention control cost the lives of refugees.

“For the refugees on Manus, the US deal is a mirage. The government must make immediate arrangements to bring them here,” said Ian Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition.

Vigils for Faysal Ishak Ahmed, the Sudanese refugee who died in Brisbane after being medi-vacced to Brisbane hospital, will be held around the country over the next week, beginning with Brisbane and Newcastle today (Thursday) followed by Sydney on Friday, 30 December, through to Melbourne on 3 January.

Sydney’s vigil will be held on Friday, 30 December, at Hyde Park, near St James Station, 6.00-7.00pm. Speakers will include: Fr Rod Bower; Dr Barri Phataford (Doctors for Refugees), George Newhouse, human rights lawyer, and a representative of the Sudanese community

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

Letter signed by over 200 detainees, calling for Royal Commission:

To the Royal Commission:


to Australian politicians, Labor , The Greens, the government and Human Rights Commission

We refugees in the Manus prison lost another friend Faysal Ishak from Sudan in the past few days. Faysal was sick and had heart problems for more that six months but IHMS, the company that has responsibility for our health, did not care about him and did not provide any treatment for him.

Faysal filled in request forms for medical treatment and wrote complaints more than 20 times but IHMS did not provide any treatment for him. More than 60 people signed a letter and asked IHMS to help to him.

We in Manus prison think that Faysal was already dead when he was in Manus medical and believe that the Australian government is lying when they say he died in Australia. About two years ago another refugee, Hamid Khazaie, died in similar circumstances to Faysal. Also we lost Reza Barati and Hossein Kamil in this prison in a system made and run by the Australian government.

We are writing this letter to you [to request that royal commission to fully investigate IHMS, the provider of medical services and its control by Border Force.  we ask that royal commission investigate how and why IHMS killed Faysal Ishak in systematic torture. More than 400 people in Manus prison need emergency medical treatment and we are worried about our health.

Finally we would like to mention that the PNG Supreme Vourt ordered in April 2016 that this prison is illegal but the Australian government has not accepted the court decision.

Manus detainees 27 Dec, 2016

Signed by over 200 Manus refugees and asylum seekers

img-20161228-wa0001 img-20161228-wa0002


Join Refugee Action Collective (Vic) for a vigil for Faysal at 6pm Tuesday 3rd January, Princes Bridge, Swanston St Melbourne
We will have candles and flowers, or bring your own.
Speakers tba

Facebook event here

Faysal Ahmed was born 20 June 1989 and died 24 December 2016. He was 27 years old and in the care of the Australian Government.

He died at the Royal Brisbane Hospital on Saturday after being airlifted the day before from Manus Island in Papua New Guinea where he had been ill for more than six months.

Mr Ahmed had been detained on Manus Island for over three years and was the fourth refugee to die from injuries sustained there.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) have stated he died from injuries suffered after a fall and seizure at the Manus Regional Processing Centre. We are now waiting for the Queensland Coroner, Terry Ryan, to report on how and why Mr Ahmed died.

Nine days before he died, Faysal Ahmed had filled out a complaint form to the International Health and Medical Services (IHMS). He wanted to know why, after more than 20 visits, they had not diagnosed him and to not delay treating him.

In a letter dated December 21, 60 Sudanese detainees also wrote to the IHMS calling for urgent treatment for Mr Ahmed. The letter described Mr Ahmed’s suffering, and that his condition was getting worse “day by day”. This letter was written the day before the seizure that led to his death.

This is not the first time that a refugee in an offshore detention camp has died due to failure of the DIBP to care for them.

Peter Dutton, as the current minister of the DIBP is responsible for keeping asylum seekers and refugees safe yet he fails to do so. Minister Dutton’s policies are punitive, with the cruel intention of denying hope and not giving people a clear path forward so that they can rebuild their lives.

“This completely preventable death is the latest symbol of the cruelty, inhumanity and heartlessness of these camps,” Senator Di Natale said.

The detention camp at Manus Island was declared illegal by the PNG Supreme Court in April 2016. With a sleight-of-hand, Peter Dutton manipulated the situation to say that while the ruling applied to that specific camp, it did not apply to the new transit camp being built nearby at East Lorengau.

The Australian Government must close the offshore detention/transit camps and bring everyone here for immediate processing and resettlement. If they refuse to, we know more people will suffer, all of which is preventable.