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 7 July 2017.

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

There has been an ongoing dispute about which court has the power to hear and determine this class action. This class action has now been commenced in the High Court of Australia. 

What is the class action about?

This class action alleges people seeking asylum between 27 August 2011 and 7 July 2017, 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 despite the Commonwealth later declaring that all persons arriving by boat in Australia would be sent offshore. 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 detain persons seeking asylum on Manus Island or Nauru as such detention was unlawful in those countries and asylum seekers 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 7 July 2017; 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.


If you are a group member, we encourage you to register your interest in the class action immediately. You can register your interest in participating in this class action.

If you believe that someone you may know might be a potential group member, please notify them of this class action and invite them to register their interest in participating.

We encourage you to seek assistance with translating these questions if required. If, after having sought assistance, you are still unable to complete the registration in English, please contact Maurice Blackburn Lawyers on 1800 930 956 or via email at

Costs and Fees

There are no costs or fees to register your interest in this class action.

Further, this class action is being conducted on a pro bono basis. This means that if you decide to participate in the action, you will not be required to pay any legal fees to us even if there is a successful outcome.