Petition to change policies at Villawood Detention Centre

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Dear Mr Dutton,

We refer to the following recent policy changes at Immigration Detention Facilities, where recent policy changes have had enormous impacts on the wellbeing of detainees and their families. 

The recent policy change mandates that “visitors to an immigration detention facility may bring food for detainees during the visits period only if the food is commercially packaged (so it cannot be tampered with), labelled, factory sealed, has a visible and valid expiry date and is identifiable”.

(See https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about/immigration-detention-in-australia/detention-facilities/outside-food-policy-for-immigration-detention-facilities 

This policy has a significant impact on detainees and in particular on Muslim detainees. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslim detainees observe the fast and break their fast with friends, families and countless volunteers from the community, as is customary. Home cooked meals are prepared by families, friends or community volunteers to be shared with fasting detainees as an important Islamic tradition.

This policy amendment would prevent community organisations from being able to hold their annual Ramadan Iftar program, an essential initative that involves a wide range of organisations and stakeholders.

The policy change also restricts the ability of personal and professional visitors from entering immigration detention facility.Visitors are now required to create an individual immiAccount, whereby each visitor must apply individually. Previously, it was possible for one visitor, usually volunteer or program coordinators, to be able to apply on behalf of a group.

This means family and friends who want to visit an immigration detention facility will need to give at least five business days’ notice of their intention to visit (the previous required period of notice was one day only).

Visitors are also now restricted to seeing 1 detainee per day, whereas previously it was 4.  This has placed unnecessary pressure on volunteers and community based organisations. Previously, six volunteers were able to visit 25-30 detainees, whereas the new policy requires 30 volunteers to achieve the same result.

Furthermore, visitors are now required to produce 100 points of Identity Document for each visit by where previously a Driver’s Licence was sufficient. This causes difficulty, as producing 100 points for every visit can become a cumbersome task, in particular for frequent visitors such as family members, community volunteers, health professionals and social workers. We feel that this will unnecessarily restrict visitations to detainees. 

(See https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about/immigration-detention-in-australia/detention-facilities/visiting-an-immigration-detention-facility

 This policy makes it especially difficult for not for profit organisations who rely on volunteers to assist detainees, visit and comfort detainees. It creates a series of unnecessary obstacles for families and friends, making it far more difficult to offer basic services and support. 

Villawood is a detention centre and not a prison. These policy changes act as further impediments to the wellbeing of detainees, exacerbating restrictions already in place.

We ask the Minister to change the policies and to revert to guidelines that do not so severely restrict the freedoms of detainees and obstruct volunteers, community organisations, friends and families from offering support to detainees. 



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