Weekly media wrap - 31 March 2019

It was revealed by the Sydney Morning Herald this week that as immigration minister in 2014, Scott Morrison proposed a multibillion-dollar program to build new mass detention facilities in Australia for asylum seekers who were living in the community on bridging visas. The proposal, according to multiple sources, was to operate alongside Operation Sovereign Borders, and serve as a deterrent to asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat. A spokesperson for Mr Morrison said he had no recollection of such a proposal.

Guardian Australia investigation into Australia’s onshore detention centres found serious concerns about the transparency and accountability of the operator Serco. The Guardian received a number of secret recordings, and found that guards allegedly discouraged detainees from pursuing complaints. The investigation also found allegations of abuse and mistreatment of detainees, arbitrary transfers, and claims of ‘prison-like’ conditions and rising tensions within the centres. Following these revelations, the centres are expected to be a focus of the Senate’s budget estimates hearings next month. 

The federal court criticised federal circuit court judge Alexander ‘Sandy’ Street, after he did not publish reasons for a decision in time for an asylum seeker to make an appeal. Judge Street took 75 days to publish written reasons for a judgment he delivered orally in July, in which he dismissed an application by an Iranian asylum seeker for a review of a visa rejection. However, the man had only 21 days to submit an appeal. Street has been criticised previously for this same failure.

The Queensland state government committed $3.5 million over two years to support asylum seekers to find work and access public transport. Communify Queensland, a community support organisation, will receive the funding to provide this support, as part of Queensland’s asylum seeker and refugee assistance program.

A Turkish tanker was hijacked by migrants it had rescued near the Libyan border, to avoid being returned to Libya. Five men who allegedly led the hijacking were arrested in Malta following the Armed Forces of Malta taking control of the vessel. The five men were among 108 asylum seekers rescued by the tanker. The tanker was ordered by Libyan authorities to take the migrants to Tripoli, but they allegedly forced the vessel to sail north towards Europe.