New recommendations made for Australia's immigration detention system

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A new report proposes an overhaul to Australia's immigration detention process, recommending that refugee applications be processed within 90 days or the immigration minister forced to explain the delay. The final report, submitted by a Parliamentary Committee inquiry into the immigration system, details 31 recommendations regarding processing timeframes, staff training, and health services.

"The committee's fundamental conclusion is that asylum-seekers should reside in held detention for as little time as is practical, the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that prolonged detention has a heavy toll on people and most particularly on their mental health and wellbeing," said Labor MP Daryl Melham, part of the committee that heard evidence about clinical signs of depression being present in 86 percent of all detained asylum-seekers.

Under the proposed changes, if application processing exceeded the 90-day limit, then the committee would require Immigration Minister Chris Bowen to publish reasons for the delay.
Committee co-chair and Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the report showed that not only was it better for asylum-seekers to be part of a more efficient system, there is also a strong financial case to expedite the processing of refugee claims.

"Why waste hundreds of millions, billion, of taxpayers' dollars only to damage vulnerable people who overwhelmingly and at the end of the day are found to be refugees," Hanson-Young said. "It is undoubtable that things have to change, there is a mental health crisis in our facilities, there are issues about the capacities of staff, however well meaning, to deal with the situations they are faced with."

So far the Australian government has rejected the 90-day limit recommendation. However the opposition has accepted 16 of the 31 recommendations from the report. The Coalition has so far refused to release asylum-seekers until their refugee claims have been determined.

"We believe that mandatory detention should be in place until someone's status has been determined," Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said. "That's what we practised in government. And combined with a strong border protection policy, it resulted in just four people being in detention."

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