Nauru seven aim for High Court
The Age (Melbourne)
May 26, 2007
SEVEN Burmese asylum seekers detained in Nauru are taking the Australian Government to the High Court, saying its refusal to consider their applications for refugee visas is unlawful.
In the unprecedented action, lawyers will allege the Government is trying to dodge its legal obligations to assess the men's applications for protection in Australia.
The men, who were dropped on Ashmore Reef by people-smugglers in August, are Muslims from Burma's Rohingya minority. They say they would be persecuted if they were returned home or sent to Malaysia, where they lived after fleeing Burma.
But in December, the Immigration Department told the men they would be able to resettle with their families under Australia's offshore humanitarian program only if they returned to Malaysia to have their refugee status claims assessed. Alternatively, they could have their claims assessed in Nauru, but resettlement in Australia would not be an option. Instead, a third country would be sought.
The men have refused to return to Malaysia, where they could face arrest, detention and deportation, according to Refugees International.
Documents lodged in the High Court this week allege that processing the asylum seekers on Nauru, with no prospect of them being resettled in Australia, is not lawful under the Migration Act. They allege immigration officials refused to interview the men about their visa applications when they visited Nauru on April 20. The alleged reasons for this refusal were:
To pressure the asylum seekers to return to Malaysia.
To pressure them to accept being processed on Nauru, where they have no legally enforceable rights.
To prevent them obtaining visas allowing them to travel to Australia from Nauru.
To prevent them asking for their applications for refugee visas to be reviewed in an Australian court if they were knocked back.
The documents say that none of these are lawful reasons for Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews to refuse to consider the visa applications. The asylum seekers want the High Court to impose an order compelling Mr Andrews to consider their applications.
Their Melbourne lawyer, David Manne, said the men were asking only for a fair go.
“They allege the Australian Government is trying to force them to be assessed under a fundamentally inferior, unregulated, unaccountable offshore processing regime that has no legal basis and so no basic safeguards,” he said.
Mr Manne said the men had been traumatised by abuse at the hands of Burmese and Malaysian authorities. “They remain in an extremely precarious position in limbo on Nauru.”
Other related coverage
Asylum-seekers take case to High Court