Australia's offshore immigration detention regime to face overhaul after High Court decision

16:32, November 11, 2010      

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Australia's offshore immigration detention regime faces a major shake-up, following a High Court decision on Thursday, which is in favor of two Tamil men seeking a review of their refugee claims.

The two Tamil men arrived on Christmas Island last October claiming they would be persecuted if sent back to Sri Lanka. However, they had been refused protection visas and await deportation to Sri Lanka.

The men wanted Immigration Minister Chris Bowen to personally review their case but were told he had no duty to do so, because they were being held offshore.

In a unanimous decision, the High Court on Thursday ruled that there was an error of law, and the two men were denied procedural fairness when Government contractors reviewed their case.

According to Stephen Banks, a lawyer with the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, the decision would affect asylum seekers whose refugee applications were rejected under the non- statutory refugee status assessment process.

Opposition Deputy Leader Julie Bishop said the High Court judgment brought into question the validity of offshore processing. It represented a failure of the ruling party to implement effective border protection and immigration laws.

"The processing system is now in chaos as a result of this High Court ruling and detention centers are being opened up across Australia to cope with people coming," Bishop told ABC TV.

However, Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the ruling would only affect refugee appeals rather than the overall regime of offshore processing.

"I understand the decision is not to overturn the offshore processing regime but rather to indicate that there is a level of review," he told Sky News on Thursday. "Additional review is appropriate in respect to legal matters relating to the decision making process, including potentially those relating to the issue of procedural fairness."

Australia has long been a destination for people from poor, often war-ravaged countries hoping to start a new life. Most of the asylum seekers in recent years have come from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

More than 110 boats full of asylum seekers have entered Australian waters this year. They were detained at either Christmas Island or mainland detention centers while their refugee claims are assessed.

Source: Xinhua


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