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. At Maurice Blackburn we believe that the Government must be held accountable for the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and we work to provide legal advice and assistance to these vulnerable individuals.
Ferouz legal action forces release of Australian-born babies from 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 and Manus Island, are no place for babies and children.
That is why the firm has continued to fight for more than 100 children and babies living in detention centres around the country, including baby Ferouz, who was born in Australia in 2013 to an asylum seeker family from a persecuted minority group in Myanmar.
For over a year Maurice Blackburn has fought, on a pro-bono basis, for Australian-born babies living in detention, including running matters in the both the Federal and High Courts of Australia. At the heart of each of these cases was a strong belief that Australian-born babies were entitled to Australia’s protection and should not be sent to Nauru or Manus Island, and also that as a country, Australia could do better than keeping children in detention.
Recent amendments to the Migration Act passed in the Australian Senate were set to see more than 80 of the babies Maurice Blackburn acts for released from detention, but a further 31 still faced the threat of removal to Nauru at any time. In light of this, Maurice Blackburn continued its lobbying and legal campaign, seeking the release of the remaining 31 babies from detention as soon as possible.
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 former 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 would be released from detention.
While these babies and their families have only cleared the first hurdle – they still need to have their applications for refugee status considered, and any visa will only be temporary – they at least however now have that right to remain in Australia and to apply for protection without the threat of imminent removal to Nauru.
Maurice Blackburn wishes to thank all Australians who have supported our campaign to release these babies, and most importantly, our clients, for their bravery, patience and determination.
This outcome is a significant step forward in the ongoing fight against keeping children in detention, and shows what can be achieved when lawyers and the broader Australian community stand together against injustice.
Adverse security assessment - Muhammad Faisal
Muhammad Faisal is a refugee who has been held in lengthy detention on Nauru and was one of the last two asylum seekers left there in 2004. After five years in detention Faisal was suffering from high levels of anxiety and worsening eyesight, required daily medication and eventually tried to take his own life in despair. As a result, Faisal was moved to a psychiatric facility in Brisbane, however at this time ASIO deemed Faisal to be a security risk, and denied him a visa on the basis of this ‘adverse security assessment’.
In February 2007 ASIO reversed their decision and Faisal was granted a visa, however, his adverse security assessment was not withdrawn. Faisal has continually been denied access to the assessment and has no way of understanding or challenging this outcome.
We continue to work on accessing documents that led to the decision by ASIO to assess Faisal as a threat to national security.
Adverse security assessment - Mohammed Sagar
Mohammed Sagar fled Iraq to Australia. He was assessed as a refugee, but when he sought clearance from ASIO, he was given an adverse security assessment which prevented him from being released into the Australian community. He was then held on Nauru for five years between 2001 and 2005.
Unable to settle in Australia, and with the adverse security assessment making it difficult to seek asylum in another country, Sagar faced the real prospect of indefinite detention on Nauru.
In 2007, Sweden accepted him as a refugee and he passed all relevant security assessments without issue. Sagar has not been given any indication as to the basis of the case against him.
We continue to work on his behalf to challenge the adverse security assessment.