Court rules Australia delayed refugee citizenship bid

Immigration department found guilty of ‘unreasonable delay’ in processing refugees’ citizenship applications

A “landmark decision” by the Federal Court of Australia has ruled that Minister of Immigration Peter Dutton unreasonably delayed making decisions on two refugees’ applications for citizenship.

The court made the ruling Friday and subsequently ordered the Department of Immigration to reconsider the applications of the two applicants in question, Afghan men of Hazara ethnicity, who for over four years have been Australian permanent residents.

The Refugee Council of Australia initiated the case against the immigration minister and in a statement Friday said the court decision had far-reaching implications for thousands of other refugees.

Tim O’Connor, acting CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia, said “today’s decision is a landmark ruling, providing hope for over 10,000 people around Australia who have been denied justice by the Immigration Department.”

Most of the 10,000 refugees to which O’Connor refers came to Australia by boat before the decision in July 2013 by the former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, that no asylum seeker who arrives by boat and is processed offshore will ever be settled in Australia.

“Our government has denied them basic rights to stability and

, importantly, family reunion, through slow and targeted decision-making. Today’s ruling recognizes this injustice and represents a first step towards a resolution for thousands and a chance for them to start to rebuild their lives,” O’Connor said.

The lawyers for the refugees argued that the delays appeared to be discriminatory.

The court heard the excessive delays have caused significant anxiety for the many thousands affected, as they have been unable to reunite with their families while their citizenship remains in limbo.

The Refugee Council of Australia’s statement says: “For people who are recognized as refugees, it is extremely difficult to bring family members to safety in Australia without citizenship. As such, delays in processing citizenship applications have left many in prolonged situations of danger and persecution, despite having a parent, sibling or other close relative who has been recognized as a refugee in Australia.”

Justice Mordecai Bromberg of the Federal Court ruled that the department’s decision to reject the two men’s applications was invalid and he dismissed Dutton’s submission that the court deny the two men “relief”.

Bromberg’s ruling was that “having rejected the Minister’s submission that I should refuse relief on discretionary grounds, it is necessary that I now consider the appropriate form of relief”.