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Operation Fortitude aftershocks

  • 07 September 2015
The aftershocks of Operation Fortitude continue to be felt. According to a Fairfax Media report, the Australian Border Force, its dog squad and the Serco Emergency Response Team transferred 30 people from Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre at 2.30 am on Friday 28 August.

At 7.00 the same morning, officers began to search of all the other people detained there. The Herald-Sun, which had also been given a photo of the search, reported that some drug equipment was found.

A spokesman for the Department denied that the two actions were linked, or that the removals were planned to make room for people identified through Operation Fortitude. It refused to comment on other matters for security and operational reasons.

Even though some details of the story, such as terror and handcuffing, are unverifiable, the broad outline provides insight into the life of people held in Detention Centres and into the Australian Border Force at work there. What it reveals is disturbing.

Strictly speaking, detention centres are not jails in which people are punished with the deprivation of freedom because they have committed a crime. In Immigration Detention Centres, people are held while they await processing of their claims for protection or their removal from Australia. Detention is not punitive but administrative in character.

Three main groups of people are held in Immigration Detention Centres. Some people have sought protection from persecution and are awaiting the adjudication of their cases.

Others have breached the condition of their visas, including asylum seekers on bridging visas. Many visitors to Australia, too, have remained in Australia after their visas expired, some working in order to remit funds to their families for education and another purposes.

The final group comprises people without Australian citizenship who have been found guilty of criminal offences. If their offence is sufficiently serious, they are liable to deportation. After they have paid their debt to society in prison, they are immediately detained for removal to their country of birth. Many, who have been in Australia for quite a number of years, or who have families here, are held in Immigration Detention Centres for a considerable time while their appeal is being heard.

None of these people is locked up as a punishment for crime. Their detention and loss of freedom is for administrative convenience, to ensure they are available for deportation. Their situation is analogous to that of people forced to stay in a quarantine station after return from a