1 December 2023
The ASRC has filed a case with the High Court challenging the legality of the Australian Government’s rushed, extreme new laws for refugees who were unlawfully detained and then released as a result of the recent High Court decision.
The ASRC’s client will argue the new law interferes with his liberty, bodily integrity, privacy and dignity, and show the law to be punitive and disproportionate – making it unconstitutional in the same way the High Court found the Government’s detention regime to be.
The conditions represent another drastic overreach of the Government’s powers and a serious infringement on people’s right to live with dignity.
These conditions will apply for the rest of a person’s life, and include ankle monitors to track every movement, strict curfews, and extreme reporting requirements. Some may restrict people’s ability to see their children and families. People will face criminal penalties for breaches of certain visa conditions, with even minor breaches attracting a minimum penalty of one year imprisonment.
The ASRC is deeply concerned about the impact of these laws on people’s health and ability to safely reintegrate into the community, and say the recent changes are causing anguish and distress for people and their families across Australia.
The ASRC is representing RVJB, a refugee who has been living safely in community detention for almost one year, rebuilding his life and repairing his health after his experience in detention, after the Minister found it was in the public interest that he be released from held detention.
RVJB arrived in Australia at the age of 13 with his family on a permanent refugee visa, escaping trauma and violence in Sudan. As a young man struggling to adjust to life in Australia and recovering from trauma without adequate support, he faced convictions for offences which were dealt with through the justice system.
After careful assessment, health experts, the Department, courts and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal have all positively remarked on his character, assessing that he was not a danger to the community, and observing he had “turned his life around”.
Despite this, he was subjected to seven years of immigration detention by the Australian Government, including on the notorious Christmas Island, where his health deteriorated and he experienced further trauma.
RVJB is now 30 years old. He has demonstrated clear rehabilitation over years. He has not committed any offence since he was 22 years old, and his most serious offending occurred when he was just 18 years old. The Minister himself thought it was appropriate that he be released from held detention a year ago.
He is the father of a young Australian citizen son. His mother, two brothers, sister and nieces are also Australian citizens and permanent Australian residents.
The new bridging visa conditions are extremely damaging and without justification. They will prevent RVJB from playing an active role in his son’s life and finding employment, impact his health, and expose him to further detention.
Hannah Dickinson, Principal Solicitor at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre:
“I have been working with RVJB for 5 years. I have witnessed his suffering in detention, his extraordinary resilience and grace, and his commitment to his family, to the community, and to change. I have witnessed expert after expert assess that he is not a danger to the community, including the Minister himself.
“Our client has been trying to recover from the trauma of cruel and unconstitutional detention and he’s doing all the right things to rebuild his life.
“Everyone should be treated equally before the law. Constitutional limits on government power are essential in a democratic society, preventing people being punished at will.
“These laws are of immense concern: we are acting fast to ensure they are properly scrutinised as soon as possible. In the meantime, we urge the Government to take a principled and careful approach, reforming the broken system to ensure legality, dignity, and justice, and to avoid the demonisation and politicisation of people’s lives that has plagued debate for years.”
“I’ve been an Australian since I was 13. I made mistakes when I was young after fleeing trauma. I served my time, and learned about consequences the hard way. I’ve worked so hard to change myself and make something of my life and I’ve proved myself over years and years.
“When the Minister granted me permission to live in the community nearly a year ago, I felt really grateful and full of hope. I was out in the community to make something of myself after years of detention.
“I was doing really good until they put on the monitor, put on the conditions, moved me out of my home with no answers. It shattered everything.
“The last time I saw my son, he was 3 months old. He starts high school next year. When I got my bridging visa, his mother and I planned a special visit. But I don’t want him to see me like this.
“I’m still detained, even though I’m not in detention. I can’t sleep with nightmares, I’m being eaten from the inside. My health is getting worse. I just want to be treated like a human being. I want to be with my son. I want to work. I want to live without fear and shame.”
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Please note: Follow-up media interviews will only be available with ASRC’s Principal Solicitor, Hannah Dickinson.
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