Lambie stops the Coalition’s mobile phone ban for detainees


By Nick Ridley

The Morrison Government’s proposition for a new law, which would have allowed immigration officials to take communication devices from asylum seekers without a warrant, has been blocked by Senator Jacqui Lambie.

Ms Lambie revealed via Twitter she would be voting against the bill.

“I’m not comfortable banning the phones of people who aren’t doing anything wrong with them,” Ms Lambie said.

It comes after a male detainee was charged with possessing child exploitation material.

Farhad Rahmati, an Iranian refugee who is detained at the Brisbane International Transit Accommodation Centre, said the Coalition Government was using the charges and the bill to censor detained refugees.

Farhad Rahmati stands on the balcony at the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel & Apartments

Farhad Rahmati was originally detained at Kangaroo Point but claims he was moved to the Brisbane International Accommodation Centre for his activism against the Australian Federal Government. Credit: Farhad Rahmati

The bill also raised concerns about the risks to the mental health of refugees currently being detained at Kangaroo Point and other mainland detention facilities.

Another detainee Amin Afravi, said his mobile phone is the only way he can contact his son.

He said, if his phone had been taken away, he would have considered committing suicide.

The majority of the men at Kangaroo Point were originally brought to Brisbane for medical treatment under the Medivac Legislation which was repealed last year.

Vickie Saunders, a refugee advocate, said the majority of medical facilities at offshore detention facilities are ill-equipped.

“A group of medical experts and refugee advocates came together and lobbied for these men to have suitable medical treatment,” Ms Saunders said.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, the men remain in total lockdown, and are unable to even go outside for short walks.

Mr Rahmati said social media and supporters, who have been protesting at BITA and the Kangaroo Point Central Apartments Hotel, have been vital in keeping pressure on the Federal Government to release the men.

“Many lovely caring Australians had no idea of what was going on in detention centres and with our phones we could send our messages,” Mr Rahmati said.

Without Senator Lambie, the bill will not have enough votes to pass the Upper House.