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  • Australia Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

    Australia Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. | Photo: AFP

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A refugee advocate stated the new legislation is simply, “part of the minister’s continuing policy of criminalizing asylum seekers.”

Australia's immigration chief has proposed a bill to ban cell phones and medication in detention centers after losing the same fight in court.

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Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's bill aims to give detention officers greater rights to search and seizure and to use detection dogs, among other things.

Dutton stated that certain items endanger “the health, safety or security of persons in the facility, or to the order of the facility,” citing cell phones, sim cards, medication and health supplements, as some of the dangerous items.

“Many in immigration detention are criminals we are deporting because they are an unacceptable risk to the Australian community and we are determined they are not going to continue their criminal behavior while in detention,” Dutton told the West Australian.

Among those arriving at immigration centers are predominantly asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, including many children.

George Newhouse, human rights lawyer and principal solicitor for the National Justice Project, stated that allowing officers unwarranted search and seizure to the rooms and belongings of detainees is simply, “part of the minister’s continuing policy of criminalizing asylum seekers.”

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“Search procedures are already very intrusive and disrespectful of people, they make them feel intimidated,” said Natasha Blucher, a detention advocacy manager at the Asylum Seeker Resource Center, describing the process as a traumatizing experience.

“If the minister is concerned about the criminal use of mobile phones then he needs to separate vulnerable individuals who come to Australia for protection from those alleged criminals,” said Newhouse.

“They’d step on everything we had – bedding, clothes – with their shoes and make us feel worthless. That was the worst part. When we complained or objected they’d say we had no right to make an objection because we were criminals,” one asylum seeker told the Guardian.

According to authorities, detainees will be able to connect with family and friends through landlines, fax, and regulated internet access.

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