The Australian Government appears to be rapidly moving to clear the way for fast-track deportations without notice of many of the 267 vulnerable people the Human Rights Law Centre represented in the recent High Court challenge to Australia’s role in offshore detention.
The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, said the Government had previously promised that it would give all 267 people 72 hours warning before deporting them, but it has now said that promise will soon cease to apply.
“The Government looks like it is clearing the way for fast-track deportations by removing basic notice periods. Not only does it want to be able to return 267 incredibly vulnerable people to harm, it wants to do so suddenly and secretively without warning,” said Mr Webb.
After the recent High Court decision on offshore detention, the Immigration Department has begun moving to urgently have all remaining matters struck off from the High Court’s list and has refused to agree to provide reasonable notice of any deportations thereafter.
“Families are terrified that one night soon they could be woken in the middle of the night and returned to harm. One mother told me that every time the door opens she is terrified that it is guards who've come to take her and her child back to Nauru,” said Mr Webb.
“It’s a matter of basic fairness and due process that vulnerable people have the chance to speak with their lawyers before being bundled onto a plane and deported,” said Mr Webb.
72-hour undertaking obtained for Baby Asha – High Court hearing vacated
The Government had adopted a similar hard-line stance in the case of 'baby Asha’ – the one year old child that medical staff at a Brisbane hospital are refusing to discharge into detention.
Mr Webb confirmed that the Government has now given an undertaking to provide 72 hours notice before deporting baby Asha, but only after the HRLC filed an emergency High Court proceeding on the family’s behalf.
“We made repeated requests for the government to agree to at least provide reasonable notice if it planned to deport this child, but they refused. We were left with no choice but to file an urgent case in the High Court,” said Mr Webb.
“Just like the brave medical staff at the Lady Cilento Hospital and the communities of people maintaining a round-the-clock vigil outside the hospital, we cannot sit back and do nothing while our Government tries to rip a baby from her hospital bed and send her to languish in a tent on Nauru,” said Mr Webb.
An urgent High Court hearing was scheduled for Tuesday morning but the hearing was vacated after the government finally agreed to provide the 72 hour undertaking Baby Asher’s lawyers had been seeking.
Mr Webb said that despite being born in Australia, baby Asha had been secretively deported without notice once before.
“When Asha was 5 months old, around 15 guards stormed her family’s room while they were sleeping. They took her from her mother’s arms and restrained her mother and father in cable ties. They forced the family into a van, then onto a plane to Nauru. That’s a horrible thing to go through once – we’ll do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Mr Webb.
“Baby Asha spoke her first words in a detention camp on Nauru. She took her first steps in a detention camp on Nauru. It’s well and truly time for our government to realise that this child deserves what every child in the world deserves – a chance at a decent life somewhere safe,” said Mr Webb.
For media inquiries, please email HRLC's Director of Communications, Tom Clarke, on firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 0422 545 763. (Email preferable.)