Asylum seekers in detention have fewer rights than prisoners, according to the national president of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).
Greg Barns said he recently completed an analysis of corrections legislation and the national guidelines for the treatment of prisoners and found that asylum seekers have none of the legislative and practical support that prisoners have.
"Nor is there any charter of rights ... for asylum seekers that can be enforced via the courts," he said.
"[The instruments] set out a range of rights and facilities for prisoners, such as education programs, access to health and a ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Many of these rights are more honoured in the breach than in reality, but prisoners at least have a regulatory regime that can be enforced in the courts."
Another point of difference, said Barns, is that asylum seekers have "no end point to their detention" and are put through "the mental anguish of living from one day to the next with no release date".
"While prisoners in Australia have their human rights violated regularly, they at least have an end point ... They are allowed, towards the end of their sentence, to leave prison and work within the community, and any grievances or complaints they have can be dealt with under corrections legislation," he said.
Barns voiced these concerns at the annual Western Australia Conference of the ALA on Friday (19 August) alongside WA ALA president Tom Percy QC and WA Governor Malcolm McCusker AO QC.