Monday, August 22, 2005

Refugees in Australia must pay for their own incarceration

There was an article in The Australian newspaper today about Cheikh Kone,a refugee from The Ivory Coast who was seeking asylum in Australia and was finally allowed to stay on humanitarian grounds. During the 32 months that his application was being considered, he was kept at Port Hedland detention centre, a normal practice in Australia, whose treatment of asylum seekers by the Howard government is notorious.

Nine months after his release, he received a bill for AUD 89,260.10 from the Federal Government for the cost of keeping him locked up. The Government holds all asylum seekers liable for the cost of keeping them locked up.

"In practice, most asylum seekers accepted as refugees are not sent a bill. But refugee advocates say there have been recent cases where refugees who are suing for damages over their detention are being threatened with counter-claims for their detention costs. This has deterred some from persuing cases."

According to lawyer and refugee advocate Julian Burnside QC, there are only two precedents of innocent people having to pay for their incarceration.
One was in post-revolutionary France under Robespierre and the second was under the Nazis.


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