Visa denied to Pakistani Hazara unlawful: Australian High Court

Feb 11 2015

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The High Court of Australia in Canberra. — AFP/file
The High Court of Australia in Canberra. — AFP/file

CANBERRA: The High Court of Australia has ordered the government’s immigration minister to issue a permanent protection visa to a Hazara refugee from Pakistan, three years after he was put into immigration detention, said a report published on The Guardian.

The high court unanimously ruled that former immigration minister Scott Morrison’s decision to refuse the man a visa was unlawful. The minister denied the visa simply because the man arrived by boat.

However, the immigration department in its investigation found out that the man’s reason to flee was genuine as the Hazara ethnic minority faced the risk of persecution in Pakistan.

The refugee who arrived on Christmas Island in May 2012 on a boat faced “a real chance of being seriously harmed or killed by extremist groups if he was returned to Pakistan,” the high court said.

Labour immigration minister Chris Bowen had initially permitted the refugee to apply for a visa but his application was rejected.

However, after an appeal to the Refugee Review Tribunal, it was discovered that he is a refugee in need of protection.

Notwithstanding, he was denied the visa for the second time as Morrison unilaterally capped the number of visas to be issued. The high court declared this action invalid.

The minister then denied him the visa on grounds that it would not serve the “national interest” to grant him refuge because he used a boat to arrive here.

The court ruled that in spite of government’s policy that no illegal maritime arrivals will be granted a visa, the law mandates that the visa be granted within 90 days.

According to an earlier report by Guardian Australia, the immigration minister had been cautioned by his department that his denial of visa for the refugee was unlawful and would be defeated in the court.

The minister ignored the advice and denied asylum to the Pakistani citizen.

The incumbent immigration minister Peter Dutton, acknowledged the high court’s judgment and said a permanent protection visa would be issued within seven days.

An Australian senator, Sarah Hanson- Young dubbed the minister’s actions in dealing with asylum seekers as “arrogance.”

“The immigration minister is not above the law, despite his consistent efforts to undermine the parliament and the high court,” she said

Daniel Webb, spokesman Human Rights Law Centre of Australia, said the court’s verdict is likely to alter parameters of powers that ministers hold.

“Being a boat arrival already triggers a range of severe legal consequences under the Migration Act. The high court has said it was not for the immigration minister to unilaterally attach more under the guise of ‘the national interest’,” Webb said.

The government has been ordered to pay costs.