Canberra, Australia – May 18, 2014|
Hundreds of asylum seekers suffered another wave of frustration and despondency Friday as the full bench of High Court of Australia reserved its judgment on a case filed against the decision of immigration minister to freeze the number of permanent protection visas at 2773 for the financial year 2013-14.
The full court hearing continued for two consecutive days, Wednesday and Thursday, in Canberra during which counsels for both the plaintiff and the defendants recorded their audio visuals.
According to sources in the law firms pursuing the case in the court, the full court was expected to announce its judgment on Thursday following completion of arguments by both the parties. However, after recording audio visuals the court reserved its judgment.
The ban on permanent protection visas was imposed by the immigration minister on March 4, 2014 which had been challenged by asylum seekers from Pakistan, Burma and Ethiopia who were refused grant of protection visas by the minister.
A number of asylum seekers had been waiting impatiently for the court’s judgment as they were looking towards the court as their last hope to get permanent residence in Australia.
It is worth mentioning here that hundreds of asylum seekers mostly Hazaras, who were declared refugees by the former Labour government, were refused permanent protection visas by the immigration department last February on the basis of the new clauses inserted in Australian Migration Act 1994, by the immigration minister, which barred asylum seekers reaching Australia by boat without visa from obtaining permanent protection. These clauses were, however, voted down by the senate on March 27, 2014.
Those denied permanent protection visas were offered the options of either to accept temporary humanitarian concern visa, approach the Refugee Review Tribunal to file an appeal against the decision, or leave the country. However, almost all the asylum seekers who were asked to accept the temporary visas rejected the offer and appealed to the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT).
In the meantime, sources in the law firms have also revealed that the Refugee Review Tribunal has indicated that it is going to delay hearing of appeals against the immigration department’s decision till July 2014. The decision seems to have been taken either on directives from the immigration department or under pressure of a great deal of appeals currently pending with the tribunal.
However, some refugee rights activists are of the view that the decision seems to be an attempt to bar the asylum seekers from getting permanent residence as the government is likely to reintroduce Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) through legislation in July when the new senate members will take charge. They asserted that RRT must act in accordance with provisions of law which bounds it to hear an appeal within 90 days of submission.