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‘Unfair’ fast-track asylum processing case set to be heard by High Court

‘Unfair’ fast-track asylum processing case set to be heard by High Court

By Karin Derkley



VLA is running a case in the High Court on Thursday that seeks to challenge the so-called ‘fast-track’ review of people seeking asylum on the basis that it is unfair and risks getting decisions wrong and sending people back into danger.

The Australian Government introduced the ‘fast-track’ legislation in December 2014 to process visa applications for around 25,000 asylum seekers who arrived by boat between 13 August 2012 and 1 January 2014.

VLA Migration Program manager Joel Townsend says the ‘fast-track’ assessment system means that people whose claims are refused are not given a fair opportunity to put forward their case for asylum and to deal with adverse information affecting their application.

The individual on whose behalf the case is being run claims that as a convert to Christianity, he is at risk of harm at the hands of Iranian authorities and others if he is forced to return to Iran. His claim for asylum was refused because his pastor said the man had not attended church as often as he had claimed.

The matter was referred to the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA) who VLA says did not consider letters from fellow church-goers that said they believed he was a genuine, faithful Christian.

Mr Townsend says the decision should not have been moved on to the IAA for limited review.

"Even if the IAA was allowed to look at our client’s case, it had a duty to be reasonable in considering our client’s case. It wasn’t, and we say the decision should not stand.”

Mr Townsend said the system is unjustly different to the process other visa applicants go through.

"Rather than being focused on providing fairness to asylum seekers, and on making correct decisions, the IAA can conduct only limited review according to limiting rules.

"This is creating situations where people seeking asylum are blindsided by issues and evidence which they had no idea they needed to deal with. And these are profoundly disadvantaged people, in desperate need, colliding with an extremely complex area of law."

A decision on the case is not expected for some months. The outcome will clarify the lawfulness of the ‘fast track’ process for other ‘Legacy Caseload’ cases expected to come before the courts.

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