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Unauthorised maritime arrivals don't have names

  • 24 November 2014

Bad laws make people suffer. That truth lies at the heart of the migration law changes proposed by the Government, which wait to be passed by the Senate. 

Consider the case of ‘Ali’ from Iraq. Ali (not his real name) fled Iraq because of threats against him from militias because of a family member’s history in the Ba’ath party. Although Ali was never in that party, he was targeted by association, a common and continuing problem in Iraq.

Ali fled to Indonesia and was interviewed by UNHCR, which approved his case as a refugee. Then he waited for resettlement, but it never came. After a few years, he took his chances on a boat for Australia in 2010. He was taken to Christmas Island and interviewed and then sent to the mainland detention centres. At the time he arrived he was termed an ‘offshore entry person (OEP)’ and was therefore excluded from making an application for a protection visa until the Minister lifted the bar. He was also referred to as an ‘irregular maritime arrival (IMA)’ in some Immigration documents.

Initially his case was refused by Immigration, despite the positive finding of the UNHCR in Indonesia. Fortunately his case was successful on review and in February 2011, he was accepted as meeting the refugee criteria. At the time, he was still in detention but his condition was deteriorating. He was finally released into the care of a family member who was already an Australia citizen, but he was not given permission to work. He was granted the Temporary Safe Haven Visa (TSHV) for a week, which created a new barrier to lodging a protection visa under s91K, unless the Minister lifted the bar.

That is as far as he has managed to get. He has undertaken further security and police checks, all positive. His status changed by mid this year when his bridging visa E expired, but he was not granted a further bridging visa, so he is technically unlawful and at risk of detention – despite the positive refugee finding back in February 2011. Inquiries with Immigration about the case were met with standard replies such as ‘the Department is awaiting checks from an outside agency (code for ASIO)’ or ‘the case is still being processed’. It was unclear what that latter explanation meant because there was no visible progress to being granted a substantive visa.

He is now married to an Australian citizen