Legal battle to stop 'cruel' mobile phone ban in detention centres


Australian Border Force is appealing a federal court injunction which stands in the way of plans to ban mobile phones in onshore detention.

The Australian Border Force (ABF) had planned to confiscate the phones of asylum seekers in February, but was prevented after human rights lawyers successfully fought for an injunction.

The battle is now returning to the Federal Court, with lawyers from the National Justice Project fighting against the Commonwealth’s appeal.

Human Rights lawyer George Newhouse told SBS World News he believes seizing the phones of all detainees is "cruel" and "unnecessary." 

“This is their connection with the world. It really is a life-saver for many people. Many people rely on their phone to communicate with their family, their loved ones, their lawyer, their advocates,” he said.

Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg claimed earlier this year that phones were being used by asylum seekers to commit crimes.

However, Mr Newhouse believes the plan to seize phone is politically motivated.

“This is not only a means of criminalising those who seek asylum, but also to clamp down on information leaking from inside the government’s cruel and inhumane system,” he said.

“It will have impact of stifling freedom of information and freedom of speech, and the ability of those inside detention to communicate the horrors under which they are living.”

The ban would apply to ‘onshore’ detention centres, including Villawood and Christmas Island, not Nauru or Manus Island.

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