Pro-bono unlawful detention of people seeking asylum class action

Maurice Blackburn has commenced a pro-bono class action against the Commonwealth of Australia seeking compensation for people seeking asylum it alleges were unlawfully detained in Australian immigration detention centres between 27 August 2011 and 25 February 2020.

Important update: Notice of Proposed Discontinuance

This is an important update regarding the future of this class action.

The purpose of the below Notice is to provide an update on the case and to let potential group members know that, because of a change in the law, DBE17 proposes to no longer run the case. A discontinuance of a class action must be approved by the Court. DBE17 will ask the Court to approve his proposed discontinuance. If it is approved, it means the class action finishes.

If they wish to ask the Court not to approve the discontinuance, group members must do so by 9 November 2021.

If you are a group member and wish to bring your own claim against the Australian Government, you should obtain independent legal advice immediately.

Click here for more information on the discontinuance process and to read the notice of discontinuance. The Notice of Proposed Discontinuance is also available in the following languages:

If you have questions regarding the discontinuance process, you should contact Maurice Blackburn Lawyer on 1800 930 956 or email us via

What is the class action about?

The lead plaintiff in this action is known as “DBE17”. He was born in detention and, it is alleged, was unlawfully detained for in excess of 450 days.

This class action is being heard in the Federal Court of Australia.

This class action alleges people seeking asylum between 27 August 2011 and 25 February 2020, who were detained while subjected to excessively long visa processing periods, were unlawfully detained by the Commonwealth Government. It alleges that persons seeking asylum may only be legally detained for the period of time it reasonably takes the Commonwealth to process their visa applications. Specifically, DBE17 was detained for a period of time substantially in excess of that taken to process his visa. DEB17’s visa was processed in approximately two working days and yet he and his family were held in detention for in excess of 450 days.

The class action further alleges that people seeking asylum who arrived after 12 August 2012 could not be lawfully taken to an offshore processing centre. In regards to children, women who were over 30 weeks’ pregnant or individuals carrying a blood borne virus, the case argues that transfer to Papua New Guinea and Nauru was not possible because these countries lacked the facilities to accommodate these particular groups of people. Further, it is alleged that it was not reasonably practicable to transfer persons seeking asylum on Manus Island or Nauru, as these individuals would be at risk of harm if transferred there.

Who is part of the class action?

You are a group member in this action if you:

  1. were held in immigration detention in any part of Australia, including Christmas Island, for more than two working days between 27 August 2011 and 25 February 2020; and
  2. were not detained because your visa had been cancelled; and
  3. did not, at any time after arriving in Australia, return to your country of origin voluntarily; and
  4. have not, at any time, received an adverse security assessment under the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (Cth); and
  5. were not at any time since August 2011 removed from Australia to your country of origin or former habitual residence without later returning to Australia; and
  6. were not detained after being a lawful non-citizen who remained outside detention without a valid visa, unless you were later granted a protection visa.

Costs and Fees

This class action is being conducted on a ‘conditional pro bono’ basis which means that legal costs are only payable upon a successful outcome being achieved in the class action.

The costs payable for the legal services we provide will be capped at the amount recoverable from an unsuccessful party or parties, either as ordered by the Court, under any legal obligation or under an agreement with the other party or parties.

If a successful outcome is achieved, the legal costs payable to Maurice Blackburn Lawyers will be deducted from the amount recoverable from the unsuccessful or other party.

Opt Out

The formal opt out process commenced in October 2020 and was completed on 4 December 2020.

Click here for more information on the opt out process and to read the opt out notice. The opt out notice is also available in the following languages:

Key Documents