High Court blocks freedom bid by immigration detainee

A new High Court judgment has prevented more immigration detainees being released.

A new High Court judgment has prevented more immigration detainees being released. Photo: AAP

Hundreds of immigration detainees will remain behind bars after Australia’s highest court decided against extending a landmark ruling.

A bisexual Iranian man, known as ASF17, failed in his bid for freedom after taking his case to the High Court.

The immigration detainee argued an earlier High Court decision that ruled it was illegal to detain someone indefinitely if there were no real prospect of deportation should be extended to people who deliberately frustrate the government’s efforts.

The federal government needed to have the capacity to deport people who had no right to stay in Australia, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.

“They’ve exhausted their legal processes, they’ve been found not to have any right to stay here, they shouldn’t be just allowed to self nominate in staying here,” he told reporters in Canberra ahead of the decision being handed down.

“These are not people who have been found to be refugees, indeed the opposite is the case, they should not be just allowed to stay here.”

The landmark High Court ruling in November led to the release of more than 150 immigration detainees.

Australian authorities have attempted to deport the Iranian man to the conservative nation every six months since 2018, when his asylum-seeker visa was refused.

As a bisexual man, ASF17 could face the death penalty upon return.

The Iranian told authorities they could deport him anywhere else, but Australia has not offered other options, so he remains in detention.

ASF17 first sought asylum to Australia by boat in 2013 and has been in detention for a decade.

The federal government had argued he should remain in detention and the Commonwealth should retain its power to detain people in similar circumstances as they had the power to bring their detention to an end.

Ahead of the court hearing, the government tried to ram through laws to prevent a mass release of people from immigration detention.

Under the proposed laws, those who refuse to co-operate with the government over their deportation – which includes those on some bridging visas – could spend up to five years in prison.

The legislation would give the home affairs minister unilateral power to ban visa classes of relatives of asylum seekers who come from blacklisted countries that do not accept deportees.

But the coalition teamed up with the Greens and the crossbench to send it to an inquiry instead of waving it through, which it had done with previous emergency legislation that sought to address the first released cohort.

The bill has been slammed as flawed and unjust by dozens of human rights and diaspora groups as well as the cross-party parliamentary human rights committee.


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