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Liberty and secrecy at odds in a new Migration Bill proposal

Visa cancellations may become more difficult to challenge if the Federal Government’s new Migration and Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Information Provisions) Bill is passed. The Bill is before parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, and it may be debated before the end of 2021.


Challenging visa cancellations is already a difficult proposition, but these changes could also mean that a person’s visa may be cancelled without them knowing why or on what evidence that decision was made. If that’s not bad enough then the visa holder may be forcibly removed from the country or if stateless, they would remain in indefinite detention.


Secrecy such as this is not only unwarranted but places far too much power in the hands of those making decisions and does not allow for the scrutiny of information. The information that is being relied upon may not be accurate or may be misinterpreted and without examination it cannot be assessed.


What brought about this new Bill is a 2017 High Court decision that found part of Australia’s Migration Act was unconstitutional as it allowed the minister to ‘shield’ information from High Court cases.


Now with this proposed Bill no tribunal would have the right to know the information on which a visa decision had been made if it had been made using ‘protected information’. Only at a closed hearing at which parties who already knew the information were in attendance could the information be discussed in terms of whether it was possible to disclose it further, for instance to the affected visa holder.


A host of non-government submissions about the Bill have been presented by leading organisations such as the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Visa Cancellations Working Group. All have said that it is unwarranted and a dangerous breach of fundamental legal principals as the Government could rely on secret evidence where a person’s liberty is in the balance. Labor has condemned the legislation.


If you are facing a visa cancellation, the team of lawyers at Assent Migration Lawyers is here to help.

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