EDITORIAL: Labor must sort out detention mess once and for all

Editorial
The Nightly
3 Min Read
At every turn, there has been a whole lot of incompetence and not a lot of accountability from both Immigration Minister Andrew Giles and Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil.
At every turn, there has been a whole lot of incompetence and not a lot of accountability from both Immigration Minister Andrew Giles and Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil. Credit: Mick Tsikas AAP

The decision by the High Court that the Government is within its rights to keep people with cancelled visas locked up if they refuse to cooperate with efforts to deport them is a rare win in what has been an absolute fiasco for Labor.

The court unanimously dismissed a legal challenge by an Iranian man, known by the pseudonym ASF17, who had refused to return to his home country after his bridging visa was cancelled a decade earlier.

ASF17 claimed he would face persecution if he were forced to return to Iran, for being bisexual, a Christian and a Kurd.

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The court, however, sided with the Government, finding that ASF17 could return to Iran, but was choosing not to do so.

The decision will give Labor a tiny bit of breathing space on an issue that has suffocated it since November when the High Court ruled indefinite detention where there was no prospect of deportation to be illegal. That saw the release of more than 150 criminal non-citizens from detention.

Since then, Labor has been caught out time and time again on its failure to keep a lid on the situation and keep the community safe, playing legislative catch-up as the saga snowballed out of control.

At every turn, there has been a whole lot of incompetence and not a lot of accountability from both Immigration Minister Andrew Giles and Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil.

First, there were laws to add conditions, including electronic monitoring and curfews, to the bridging visas of those former detainees freed as a result of the ruling.

That didn’t go far enough to quell community concerns about the tide of criminals — rapists and murderers among them — who had been let out into the community because of the bungle.

So new emergency legislation was passed allowing the Government to lock up the worst of the worst on a preventive basis, instead of waiting around for them to commit new crimes.

But that didn’t protect Perth grandmother Ninette Simons, 73, who police say was bashed and robbed in her own home by a group of three men posing as police officers — one of whom was, it is alleged, an ex-immigration detainee.

That man, 43-year-old Kuwait-born meth trafficker Majid Jamshidi Doukoshkan, was not subject to electronic monitoring at the time of the alleged attack on Mrs Simons and her 76-year-old husband.

Prior to the High Court’s decision to allow ASF17 to remain behind bars, the Government had been trying — and failing — to rush legislation through Parliament to give it the power to make it easier to deport people against their will, even if they have a genuine fear of harm or persecution in their home country. Those new laws would force non-citizens under deportation orders to get out of the country or face up to five years in jail.

Friday’s decision takes some of the urgency out of the need to pass those laws. It gives Labor some time to redraft these laws and this time — finally — get it right.

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