Sydney, Australia, Nov 9 (EFE).- Australia is to release dozens of people from indefinite immigration detention following a landmark High Court ruling that declared it unlawful.
Protesters outside of the Mantra Hotel in Preston, Melbourne, Australia, 14 December 2020. EFE-EPA FILE/JAMES ROSS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
Wednesday’s High Court ruling overturned a 20-year-old precedent set by the same court which determined it was legal to detain people indefinitely, provided they were removed from Australia as soon as reasonably practicable.
The new ruling was expected to pave the way for the release of dozens of refugees and asylum seekers who cannot be returned to their country of origin but are still being detained by Australian authorities.
At the center of the case was NZYQ, a stateless Rohingya man who faced detention for life because no country had agreed to resettle him after serving time in jail for child sexual offenses.
The court justices determined that since NZYQ had been detained when there was “no real prospect of his removal from Australia becoming practicable in the reasonably foreseeable future” his detention was unlawful, and ordered his immediate release from the immigration detention center where he was being held following the serving of his sentence.
“The plaintiff has been released – as ordered by the High Court. Other impacted individuals will be released and any visas granted to those individuals will be subject to appropriate conditions,” Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said in a statement on Friday.
He added that the government “notes the High Court ruling” and was considering its “implications.”
The Asylum Seeker Resource Center welcomed the court’s decision on Thursday and said it could “trigger the immediate release of 92 people, with the detention of 340 others in doubt, and with major implications for the management of detention into the future.”
It also noted that the government holds people in immigration detention for an average of 708 days, and that there are 124 who have detained for more than five years.
“Under international human rights law, immigration detention should be an exceptional measure of last resort, not a punishment,” Human Right Watch said in a statement Friday.
“The high court’s ruling provides real hope for those languishing in limbo for years in Australian immigration detention.”
In 1992, Australia imposed a policy of mandatory detention of all asylum seekers arriving to the country’s territories by sea, which it tightened further in 2013 when it ordered those “without papers” to be detained in offshore immigration centers or returned to their point of embarkation.
Many of the refugees and asylum seekers have fled conflicts in places such as Afghanistan, Darfur, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria. Others have escaped discrimination and persecution, such as the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar and the Bidoon Arab minority in the Gulf region, which are both effectively stateless and unrecognized by their governments. EFE