The recent actions of a detainee in immigration detention, who was caught viewing and distributing images of child exploitation material on his mobile phone, has re-emphasised the need for granting mobile phone seizure powers to the authorised officers in immigration detention facility.
Earlier, on 14 May 2020, the Government had introduced the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2020 [“the Bill”] in the House of Representatives to amend the Migration Act 1958 (Cth). The Bill proposes to insert new provisions regarding search of detainees for prohibited things in the immigration detention facility and related exercise of powers by the authorised officer, including power of search, seizure and forfeiture with the aim to regulate the possession of certain items to ensure that an immigration detention facility is a safe and secure environment for staff, detainees and visitors.
The Bill also proposes to define prohibited things to include controlled drugs (as defined in the Criminal Code Act 1995 ) and prescription drugs, as case may be, mobile phones, Subscriber Identity Module (SIM cards), and internet-capable devices for this purpose.
The Hon Alan Tudge MP, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs said, “The case highlights why stronger laws are needed to allow Australian Border Force to search for and seize mobile phones from immigration detainees…Yet under current laws, officers are not legally able to search for or seize mobile phones, even if they know they are being misused. The current laws also prevent officers searching for and seizing items that are illegal, such as illicit drugs or extremist material.”