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Refugees in the dark over security checks

  • 25 May 2012

After being in the community for over a year, a pregnant Tamil refugee and her two children were detained due to an adverse security assessment. Her husband is an Australian citizen.

Detention of refugees for adverse security assessments affects around 50 cases, less than 0.5 per cent of the applications in the last year. These cases have reached an impasse where people cannot be returned to their home country because they meet the refugee criteria, but will not be granted permanent residence in Australia because of the adverse security assessment.

These cases are now going to the High Court in a new legal challenge.

The human cost of the security process is significant. The issue about adverse security assessments based on undisclosed information may be resolved by the High Court. However delay in the security assessment process also needs addressing, as some refugees are waiting years to get any security assessment.

'Hayder' and 'Mariam' (not their real names) were found to be refugees in mid 2009 and have been living in the community for over four years. They have patiently awaited their security clearance. Every year, they pay for and supply fresh police clearances from the Federal Police.

In 2011 they had a baby and this year they had their second child.

When they make inquiries with Immigration they are told that Immigration is still awaiting the security checks from 'outside agencies'. They are living on bridging visas, and have permission to work, but some employers are not interested if they only have a bridging visa.

The long process is affecting them mentally as they cannot discover why their cases are taking so long.

The security check process is opaque. Applicants fill in a form 80, which is now 19 pages long. Ten years ago, the form was two pages. Each new version of the form adds new questions. Immigration advises people that they send the form to 'outside agencies', which we all know means ASIO.

What happens after ASIO gets the form is a total mystery. Immigration officers have told me they do not know what happens, nor why the process can take so long. Some cases are decided within months, others take