Australia Faces Compensation Bill For Wrongful Detentions

Australia faces compensation bill for wrongful detentions: lawyer

Oct 21, 2008

SYDNEY (AFP) The Australian government may compensate as many as 191 people for wrongfully holding them in immigration detention centres, a parliamentary hearing was told Tuesday.

A government ombudsman last year reported that 247 Australian citizens, permanent residents and legal visa holders were incorrectly detained by the Immigration Department between 1993 and 2007.

The inquiry was sparked by the illegal detention of mentally ill Australian resident Cornelia Rau for more than 10 months in 2004 and 2005 and the wrongful deportation of Australian citizen Vivian Alvarez Solon to the Philippines.

The chief lawyer for the department, Robyn Bicket, said Tuesday the department had now reviewed all the cases.

“Currently we are at 191 cases (where) we believe there is risk of legal liability for compensation and 56 cases where we believe there is no compensatable risk involved,” she told a Senate estimates hearing.

Bicket said that the department had offered compensation in 40 cases and settlements had been reached in 17 instances.

Australia's previous conservative government adopted a tough policy towards asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, making immigration detention mandatory even for children. That policy has since been scrapped.