Freedom of Information Requests Denied
by Phillip Cook
Recently the Global Mail created “Behind the Wire” (behindthewire.theglobalmail.org). This website is a graphical representation of incident reports from immigration detention centres around Australia lodged between October 2009 and May 2011. The incidents range from everyday mishaps to deaths.
Each report is only one or two sentences long, but DIAC holds detailed documentation of each incident, particularly for those of a more serious nature. The Behind the Wire site provides a simple link that allows a visitor to lodge a freedom of information request to access this documentation.
Like many people, I submitted a FOI request. Unfortunately, I received a negative response from DIAC. Their letter states that they received 85 unique FOI requests between the 11th and 23rd of June and that under the FOI rules they can treat all of these requests as one. They state that to process all of these claims would ‘substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of the agency from its other operations’. Thus they are denying all 85 of the FOI requests lodged between these dates.
The creators of the Behind the Wire website are investigating the best option to progress our FOI requests and have advised everyone to wait to hear from them before proceeding further.
Transparency is a core principal of a fair and democratic society. It is not good enough for the department to simply claim they do not have the resources to provide the public with reports about serious harm that has occurred to people they are detaining.
I, for one, will continue to demand that our basic democratic rights are upheld and that we are given access to information about what is really going on in these secretive and unjust facilities.
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