Border Force

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has contradicted evidence given to the Senate about the use of capsicum spray in immigration detention. Yesterday Crikey revealed that in response to a question on notice from Senate estimates regarding “use of force in detention”, the department responded as follows:

“The Department defines ‘use’ as drawing, aiming, striking or discharging the baton, firearm or chemical agent and ‘force’ as any verbal command or physical action to gain subject control.”

The chemical agent, the department said in its response, was:

“Chemical agent means oleoresin capsicum spray or any other irritant or inflammatory spray, or device, of a type which has been approved by the Comptroller-General of Customs or his or her authorised representative for use by an officer in the exercise of statutory powers, and that is an approved item of personal defence equipment for the purposes of section 189A of the Customs Act 1901”

The question was specifically put to the department regarding a massive increase in incidents of “use of force” in Australia’s onshore detention network, and the question itself mentioned detention in its subject title. In a response published on the department’s “correcting the record” page late in the afternoon after the department did not provide a response within an hour to our questions, the department contradicted its initial response, and said that capsicum spray was not used in immigration detention centres.

“Neither ABF officers nor the Department’s contracted Service Provider, carry or have authorisation to use OC spray or firearms in IDCs. Crikey has misinterpreted the answer to a Question on Notice dealing with the broader issue of how the Department defines ‘use of force’ across the entirety of its operations.”

In the article, Crikey made no suggestion that capsicum spray had been used, just that according to the department’s own response, it appeared that there had been a shift in policy regarding its use. The department– which last month took close to three days and two email requests to get a response to questions from Crikey on briefing Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on the Good Friday incident on Manus Island — said it was “disappointed” Crikey didn’t hold off on publishing while waiting for a response from the department.  

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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