The Australian courts have found errors and unfairness are common in refugee case rulings by the Immigration Department.
06 October 2011
Courts overturn more than half of Australia’s refugee case rulings
Documents released by Australian immigration authorities suggest that two thirds of rulings in refugee cases are being overturned by the courts.
The Australian Federal Court has found that 'legal errors' and 'lack of fairness' are found in as many as every two out of three rulings in cases of application for a humanitarian Australian visa, according to Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) documents made known to the news media this week.
The documents reveal that out of 43 cases of rejection for refugee status, 27 decisions were found to be wrong when put before judicial review in the Federal Court. A further 6 cases have been overturned in the Federal Magistrates Court, while 21 cases have been conceded to be wrong by the department itself. This is an overturn rate of 63 per cent.
Currently, applications for asylum are heard by the Refugee Review Tribunal within DIAC. In the case of an overturned ruling, applicants are given the opportunity to have their claim re-assessed. This, in turn, will cost the Australian Government tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
The ability to seek judicial review for refugee rulings is a new aspect of the Australian immigration system, following a case won by refugee lawyer and activist David Manne in the High Court of Australia in December 2010.
Mr Manne has expressed concern at the high overturn rate. "It is crucial that the ordinary protections of Australian law are applied to these life and death matters, wheer a mistake can have such huge consequences".
A large number of the overturned cases concern claimants from Afghanistan. Australian National University Afghan expert William Maley said "it is very important that the standard of reviewing of asylum applications be drastically improved. Poor primary decision-making … is likely to clog up both the courts and the detention centres, and contribute to an atmosphere of despair.''
Australian Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy that specialises in helping people lodge applications with the Australian High Commission.