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Urgency Motion: Rights of Appeal to adverse ASIO security decisions for Refugees & Asylum Seekers in indefinite detention.

The lack of appeal rights and merits review of refugees with adverse ASIO assessment decisions means genuine refugees, men, women and children, are caught in a legal black hole.  They are effectively facing incarceration for the rest of their lives, simply for seeking protection as refugees in Australia. 

Independent review and appeal are basic principles of modern justice. ASIO, like all decision makers, must be subject to checks and balances.

The last National ALP conference voted unanimously to require the National Security Legislation Monitor to propose a mechanism which allowed adverse security assessments of refugees to be reviewed in a way that protected ASIO’s sources but ensured procedural fairness.

The ALP National Platform 2011 Chapter 9 paragraph 161 reads: ‘Labor will require the National Security Legislation Monitor to advise on establishing a mechanism for independent review of the adverse security assessments that ensures procedural fairness while recognising that processes may be required to protect intelligence sources and methodology.’

The Platform states “Labor will explore options other than indefinite detention including third country resettlement to deal with refugees with adverse security assessments in a way that does not jeopardise Australia’s national security interests. “

There are currently 47 refugees held in indefinite detention as a result of adverse ASIO assessments. Many of these are Tamils who arrived here over two years ago, in 2009, fleeing civil war in Sri Lanka. Last week, one of them whose name is Kumar, attempted suicide in a Melbourne detention facility. One family, the Rahavans, have a child, nearly two years old, who was born in detention and has never been free.

In another case Ranjini a mother of two boys aged 6 & 8 was verified as a refugee last year. She has been living in community detention in Melbourne. However, ASIO has revised Ranjini’s security assessment so she and her kids will be held indefinitely in a residential section of Villawood detention centre in Sydney. She has no right of appeal — nor even to know the case against her. As a refugee, she cannot be returned to Sri Lanka. No charge, No trial, No appeal! How can this happen in a free, democratic country like Australia?

After an extensive inquiry into Australia’s Immigration Detention Network the Joint Select Committee came up with the view that “the Government should take immediate steps to resolve how best to afford refugees an opportunity to appeal the grounds for their indefinite detention without compromising national security”

Independent review and appeal are basic principles of modern justice. ASIO, like all decision makers, must be subject to checks and balances.

Therefore, we call on our Federal Labor Government to implement para 161 of the National Platform and recommendations 27 & 28 from the recent Inquiry into the Detention Network.

Recommendation 27

6.151 The Committee recommends that the Australian Government and the ASIO establish and implement periodic, internal reviews of adverse ASIO refugee security assessments commencing as soon as possible.

Recommendation 28

6.152 The Committee recommends that the ASIO Act be amended to allow the Security Appeals Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review the ASIO security assessments of refugees and asylum seekers.”

Motion moved by Ilia Vurtel at ALP Victorian State Conference on 19 May 2012.  Carried