People coming to Australia seeking asylum from persecution are some of the most vulnerable members of society. Those people held in immigration detention should be treated with respect and compassion and not subjected to questionable and even illegal practices on the part of the authorities.
Unlawful detention of people seeking asylum class action
This pro-bono case is significant in shining a light on the Commonwealth’s harsh border policies and in challenging the unlawful detention of detainees under Australian law.
The Commonwealth were very clear in declaring in July 2013 that anyone who arrived by boat would be sent to Manus Island or Nauru, despite that many of these people seeking asylum could never be sent offshore – namely pregnant women, young children and their families - because of significant limitations in the ability of Manus Island and Nauru to safely take them.
For some of these detainees, the visa approval process took years, despite the Immigration Minister having the ability to grant a visa to a detained person at any time.
We will be asking the Court to determine what a reasonable timeframe should be for the approval of a visa or to determine visa eligibility - in our view a reasonable time frame is two working days to six months, not years as we have seen on repeated occasions with detainees.
This is a significant case both in seeking acknowledgement that people were unlawfully detained, but also in seeking a more humane approach to the Commonwealth’s detention of asylum seekers.
It is patently cruel and wrong to leave vulnerable people who are seeking asylum, including families with young children, in detention indefinitely with no end in sight and little clarity about what their future holds.
We hope that this case will lead to recognition from the Commonwealth Government that a fairer and more decent approach to the processing of people seeking asylum is urgently needed.
Potential group members can register their interest in this class action by contacting Maurice Blackburn Lawyers on 1800 930 956 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Removing babies from mandatory detention
Maurice Blackburn, along with the Australian Human Rights Commission, the United Nations, and a number of church groups and medical organisations continue to firmly believe that detention centres, including on Nauru Island, are no place for babies and children.
On December 18 2014, in light of this campaign and more than a year after legal action first commenced for Ferouz and the other Australian-born babies living in detention, the then Minister for Immigration announced that the remaining 31 babies would also be released from detention and be allowed to remain in Australia to have their protection claims assessed. This announcement meant that all 109 children and babies being represented by Maurice Blackburn were released from detention.
Protecting women in Australia’s offshore detention centres
In May 2015 a 24-year-old Iranian woman was allegedly raped on her way back to Australia’s offshore detention centre on Nauru after visiting friends. Nazanin was bought to Australia for treatment after she stopped eating and suffered kidney damage. The Minister of Immigration indicated at the time that she may be forced to return to Nauru, where she would certainly face her alleged perpetrator.
Protecting children from harm in detention centres
In April 2017 the Australian Government settled a case that Maurice Blackburn ran pro-bono on behalf of ‘AS’, a child who was detained on Christmas Island at age five, when she arrived in Australia with her parents by boat.
Her treatment in detention caused the girl significant psychiatric and physical harm, including post-traumatic stress disorder and a recurrent dental infection.
We also hope that this case provides hope to the many thousands of people who have suffered and continue to suffer in detention, and to demand a better standard of treatment for children in detention from the Commonwealth Government.