Australia's immigration policies have become a controversial issue in recent weeks.
20 January 2012
Refugee lawyer supports tough Australia visa laws
Senior Australian politician Daryl Melham has recommended refugees who are deemed security threats should be able to live in Australian communities with electronic monitoring devices while their security clearances and rights to an Australian visa are reviewed. In a seemingly strange turn of events, a respected refugee lawyer has opposed the recommendation, at odds with her own staunch views on the refugee issue.
Marion Le, who has long opposed mandatory detention, claimed that releasing asylum seekers into the community while they await the decision from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) would not be a viable solution to the issue.
"If people are considered to be in touch with people who are in another country, and they are a threat to [Australia], then I think letting them out on security bracelets is not going to change that at all" she said.
Ms Le's comments are in response to Daryl Melham, head of a parliamentary committee on detention, who said that people without previous convictions, people can't be left "in limbo for 10, 15, 20 years".
"But you also can't ignore assessments from ASIO" he said. "That's why you need to explore the options of ASIO involving itself in continuous reviews."
While Ms Le agreed with Mr Melham that asylum seekers who are not granted an Australia visa but cannot be deported on humanitarian grounds should not be left indefinitely in detention, the idea of simply releasing them might be too drastic.
"I think the step is a bit too much if we decide we are going to release people who haven't been security cleared when, you and I, don't know what the security problem is."
Ms Le has consistently opposed the Australian immigration authorities' most severe methods of tackling the refugee issue including the much maligned 'Malaysia Solution', an asylum seeker exchange deal which she labelled a "nightmare"; she also advocated the reopening of the Nauru detention centre.
While Ms Le's comments may come as a surprise to many, her sentiments have been echoed the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre's Pamela Curr, who agreed that asylum seekers should be released into the community, but not on electronic monitoring.
"What Australians don't understand is having an adverse security threat does not mean a person is going to go and blow up [a department store]" said Ms Curr.
"The introduction of ankle bracelets would be a really dangerous move backward; introducing this form of security for people found guilty of no crime would be a terrible thing to do in this country."
The Australian government has repeatedly come under fire in recent weeksfor its immigration policies as an increase in boat arrivals has worsened the situation in the country's already overcrowded detention centres.
"What ASIO needs to do" said Ms Le "is to release to the people themselves the information on which they made their judgement on."
ASIO does not provide the justification for their decisions, claiming that they cannot comment on individual cases and asylum seekers who have received an adverse decision are not permitted to challenge the material which led to the adverse assessment.
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian High Commission.