High Court challenge on detainee ankle bracelets and curfews

The legal challenge on restrictions to detainees' freedoms will go to the High Court.

The legal challenge on restrictions to detainees' freedoms will go to the High Court. Photo: ABC News

Another High Court challenge has been launched opposing the government’s plan to monitor detainees recently released from indefinite immigration detention with ankle bracelets and curfews.

The latest challenge was filed on Tuesday by Refugee Legal on behalf of a 37-year-old man from Afghanistan who was previously found to be a refugee.

A similar action was launched last week on behalf of a Chinese refugee known as S151, who arrived on a student visa in September 2001.

Both men are seeking a court declaration that the curfew and electronic tracking bracelet included in his bridging visa conditions amount to punishment.

The executive director of Refugee Legal, David Manne, said under the Australian Constitution detention was considered punishment, with very limited exceptions.

“Generally it’s only the courts, not the government, that are able to impose punishment on people,” he said.

“With immigration detention in this country, the law is detention can only be for the purposes of either processing an application to remain in Australia or remove someone from Australia.”

The Afghani man arrived in Australia in 2011 seeking protection and was found to be a refugee.

Shortly after arriving in Australia, while still in detention, he was fined $2000 for an indecent assault.

“That resulted in him ultimately being detained for the next 11 years,” Mr Manne said.

Earlier this year, the man was released into community detention, meaning he was able to live in the community without an ankle bracelet and curfew for the past nine months.

“Under these conditions now if he is late home by one minute he potentially faces a mandatory minimum one-year prison sentence,” Manne said.

The measures were fast-tracked through Parliament earlier this month, after the government was forced by a High Court decision to release 93 people from immigration detention.

Manne said in most cases in Australia once people have served their sentence for committing a crime they are released into the community.

“What we’ve had here is that people that were recently released were instead, on the basis of the same offences, then held in indefinite detention,” he said.

“This constituted essentially a double punishment of the very worst kind of indefinite deprivation of liberty.”


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