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May 18, 2012

THE Gillard government has failed to implement a decision of last year’s ALP national conference that offered hope for almost 50 refugees facing indefinite detention because ASIO has deemed them threats to national security.

The conference voted unanimously to require the National Security Legislation Monitor to propose how adverse security assessments of asylum seekers could be reviewed in a way that protected ASIO’s sources but ensured procedural fairness for asylum seekers.

But more than five months after the conference, the monitor, Sydney lawyer Bret Walker, SC, has not received any reference from the Prime Minister to provide such advice.

Front_353Ranjini faces a life in detention.

Confirmation of the inaction came as the Attorney-General announced that three Indonesian minors who had been jailed as adult people smugglers would be freed after a review gave their claims to be children “the benefit of the doubt”.

The failure to act on adverse ASIO decisions will anger party members and MPs who believe the government committed itself to act on the need for greater transparency of decisions and explore alternatives to indefinite detention.

It may also prompt fierce debate at this weekend’s Victorian ALP conference, which will consider motions calling for swift action to implement an appeals process.

The secretary of Labor for Refugees, Robin Rothfield, last night accused Attorney-General Nicola Roxon of showing contempt for her party’s platform.

Mr Rothfield said it appeared Ms Roxon had taken no action in response to changes in the platform or the recommendations of a parliamentary inquiry that reported in March.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the most recent case of a negative assessment — in which a Sri Lankan mother was placed in indefinite detention with her two boys last week after marrying and settling as a refugee in Melbourne — demonstrated the urgent need for a review mechanism.

The woman’s first husband died in the Sri Lankan civil war. Her second husband maintains he sought the department’s approval before they married in April and she moved from Brisbane to Melbourne.

“The lack of appeal rights and merits review of these detention and adverse ASIO assessment decisions means genuine refugees, men, women and children, are caught in a legal black hole,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“They are effectively facing incarceration for the rest of their lives, simply for seeking protection as refugees in Australia. 

“The ASIO Act must be changed as per the recommendations in the recent parliamentary detention inquiry to allow a review of these ASIO assessments and the ability of individuals to know what accusations the government is making about them, so they have the ability to respond.”

Asked how the national conference decision was being implemented, a government spokesman said:  “Introducing a new appeal mechanism for adverse security assessments, which would operate over and above current mechanisms, raises complex legal questions.

“The government will continue to consider and methodically work its way through these complex issues before commenting further.”

Shadow immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the Coalition did not support a call for a review of ASIO assessments.

He said a Coalition government would not change the arrangements for people found to pose a security threat.

“By implementing our proven border protection policies we will be significantly reducing the instances of these cases presenting in the future — but we do not believe national security should be compromised on these issues,” he said.

Fremantle MP Melissa Parke, who moved the resolution at the national conference, said she remained confident that the government would act.

“I’ll be seeking advice from the Attorney-General on the issue,” she said.

On the topic of the three Indonesian juniors, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said they would be returned to Indonesia after their cases were reviewed.

“Minors don’t belong in adult jails, which is why the government committed to review these cases as quickly as possible,” Ms Roxon said.

“Further information has raised sufficient doubt that these three individuals may have been minors at the time of the offence, which warrants granting them early release on licence.”

The government agreed on May 2 to review the cases of 24 people convicted of people smuggling offences who claimed they were children at the time of their offences.

Since then, four more cases have been identified for review.

The Australian Human Rights Commission is conducting a separate inquiry into the treatment of people suspected of people smuggling offences who claim to be children.

Ms Roxon said that thee others individuals convicted of people smuggling offences had completed their non-parole period and had been sent back to Indonesia.

With DANIEL FLITTON and BIANCA HALL

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/political-news/gillard-fails-to-act-on-labor-plan-to-help-refugees-blacklisted-by-asio-20120517-1ytpf.html#ixzz1vAqha5Bf

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