Drones used to track detainees as Immigration Minister Andrew Giles faces new visa questions

Dan Jervis-Bardy and Katina Curtis
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Drones are being used to track former immigration detainees in the community, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has revealed.
Drones are being used to track former immigration detainees in the community, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has revealed. Credit: AAP

Drones are being used to track former detainees in the community, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has revealed, as he defended the handling of the cohort.

Mr Giles confirmed the tactic as he claimed it was not legally possible to electronically monitor every former detainee, after revelations convicted murderers and sex offenders were not fitted with GPS trackers.

As the political furore surrounding the controversial direction 99 rages on, the Federal Government is under renewed pressure about the monitoring of the 153 people freed from immigration detention after last year’s High Court ruling on the NZYQ case.

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Home Affairs officials this week revealed at least two convicted murderers and 26 people previously charged with sex offences were not being electronically monitored as part of their visa conditions.

Only 76 - roughly half the freed ex-detainees – are wearing ankle monitoring bracelets.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr Giles said the Government could not electronically monitor all the detainees “because the law doesn’t allow it”.

“The law requires a consideration of each person’s circumstances,” he said.

Mr Giles insisted the detainees were being tracked, including with drones.

It was the first mention of the use of drone surveillance since emergency laws to monitor the detainees were rushed through parliament late last year.

Border Force would not comment on the specifics of the drone operations when The West Australian asked a series of questions, including how many ex-detainees were subject to aerial surveillance and if those individuals were even aware of it.

“The Australian Border Force (ABF) does not comment on the specifics of its operational capability or that of its law enforcement partners,” a spokesperson said.

“Under Operation AEGIS, ABF and Australian Federal Police are working closely with state and territory authorities and law enforcement to ensure community safety.

“The use of surveillance technology by law enforcement agencies is governed by strict legislative requirements.”

The visa conditions imposed on all detainees are based on advice from the Commonwealth Community Protection Board made up of public servants and independent experts.

The board was criticised – including by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese – after revelations it advised GPS tracking was not required for Majid Jamshidi Doukoshkan before his alleged involvement in the bashing of Perth grandmother Ninette Simons.

Appearing at Senate estimates, Home Affairs officials revealed it was implementing a “risked-based” approach to managing the former detainees.

That included using new tools to assess the risk an individual poses to the community and how that might change over time.

Shadow Minister for Home Affairs James Paterson at a press conference at Parliament House, in Canberra, Thursday, March 21, 2024. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Paterson said it was considering pushing for a new hearing so members could ‘front up and explain their role’ in the saga.  Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

The Coalition asked the board’s independent members to take the unusual step of fronting up to Senate estimates — but all were unavailable.

Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Paterson said it was considering pushing for a new hearing so members could “front up and explain their role” in the saga.

The public servants on the board, including chair Sandra Jeffrey, were present at Wednesday’s estimates.

The four independent members have been paid a combined $201,000 in board fees as of April 30.

More than $34 million overall has been spent on managing the ex-detainees.

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