Immigration Minister questioned over released detainee surveillance

The federal opposition is putting pressure on Immigration Minister Andrew Giles over deportation rules, with new questions raised by a claim by Giles that former detainees are being monitored by drones.

The Immigration Minister is faced with a political dilemma over the relocation of prisoners after Australia’s High Court declared indefinite detention unlawful.

The relocation of these people, some of whom have criminal records, has been the subject of heated political debate in recent months.

“Well, a new day and more questions for Andrew Giles to answer,” Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Dan Tehan said on Saturday.

“He must answer the question of when the new ministerial directive will come into force.”

The independent Administrative Appeal Court decides on deportation decisions and is bound by a ministerial order called “Direction 99”.

Directive 99 was signed by Mr Giles in January 2023 and states that Australia will “generally demonstrate a higher level of tolerance” towards non-citizens who have lived in the country for a long time.

“We now know that over 400 (deportation) cases appear to have been overturned under Ministerial Directive 99,” Mr Tehan said.

The pressure on Mr Giles began when it was revealed that the AAT had cancelled the visas of criminals, including a man accused of stabbing a 22-year-old and another man convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl.

Earlier this week, Mr Giles said he was working “day and night” to issue a new policy that would make it easier to deport people who pose a threat to public safety.

But Mr Tehan’s “second question” challenges a claim made by Mr Giles this week that released prisoners would be monitored by drones.

“The second question he has to answer today is: what happens to these drones?” Mr Tehan told the media on Saturday.

“Who are these drones looking for, do these drones actually exist or is this something else he said that there doesn’t seem to be any evidence or clues for,” Mr Tehan said.

“It became very clear yesterday that the AFP (Australian Federal Police) had no idea whether drones were being used and how they were being used. So where are these drones?”

Mr Tehan asked if the released prisoners were not monitored by drones, how would they be monitored?

“Because we don’t know that not all murderers, not all sex offenders, not all child sex offenders wear ankle bracelets and are subject to curfews,” Mr Tehan explained.

“Yet the minister told Parliament: ‘We are watching them all.’ And then he said: ‘We are watching them with drones.'”

Earlier this week, Giles said he would review up to 30 cases of non-citizens who failed character tests after an independent tribunal under his ministerial leadership restored the visas of convicted sex offenders, kidnappers and drug smugglers.

“I am relentlessly focused on this job. There is so much to do. We inherited a shocking mess in the immigration system and fixing it is my job,” Giles said Thursday.

On Saturday, Mr Giles’ office referred questions to the Australian Border Force.

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