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  • Writer's pictureDessie

High Court of Australia rules indefinite detention is unlawful

On Wednesday last week the High Court ruled that a stateless Rohingya man from Myanmar who was being held in detention had been unlawfully detained. The High Court ruling overturned a 20-year precedent that allowed asylum seekers who had failed character tests to be held in detention indefinitely if they could not be deported. These refugees were classified as being stateless. The Australian Human Rights Commission welcomed the ruling.

The orders made by the High Court in this case suggest that if a person has committed a crime in the past and served their prison sentence, they cannot be further punished through indefinite administrative detention. Any punishment for past conduct must be determined by a court which is how our legal system operates in Australia, the punishment is not determined by government.

According to reports 92 asylum seekers have been released from immigration detention following last week’s High Court ruling that indefinite detention is unlawful. They have been provided with bridging visas with individual conditions and reporting obligations. The Commonwealth said there were some 300 more who may be affected by the decision.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has said that the government had been working with federal and state police and a joint operation is underway to ensure the safety of Australians.

In August 2023, there were 1,056 people in immigration detention and 124 of them had been detained for more than five years. However, over the last 20 years, Australia’s system of mandatory and indefinite immigration detention has affected the lives of tens of thousands of people, most of whom came to this country seeking protection as refugees.

For decades, Australia’s system of mandatory and indefinite immigration detention has imposed an enormous burden on thousands of vulnerable people and their families,” President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Emeritus Professor Rosalind

Croucher AM, said.

It has separated families and friends, it has caused significant physical and mental health problems, it has deprived people of hope, and it has taken away from them one of the most fundamental of human rights: the right to liberty.”

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