AUSTRALIA POLITICS: Court To Dutton: Rethink Afghan Refugees Citizenship Refusals
The immigration minister took too long in deciding the citizenship applications of two former Afghan refugees and Peter Dutton must now reconsider his refusals to both men, the Federal Court says.
One of the men waited 18 months and the other 23 months, before turning to the Federal Court to argue they’d endured excessive delays in finding out whether their applications had been accepted or rejected.
In a landmark ruling handed down on Friday, the court found both men had suffered unreasonable delays, and ordered that the eventual decisions to deny both men citizenship must be quashed and reconsidered.
The Hazara men fled persecution in Afghanistan before arriving in Australia by boat in 2010, where both were granted permanent protection visas as refugees.
They qualified for Australian citizenship by living in the community for four years before passing citizenship tests.
But despite passing their tests in 2014 and 2015 respectively, neither received a citizenship ceremony.
The Immigration Department’s service standard for processing citizenship applications is 80 days.
Justice Mordecai Bromberg said there was no explanation as to why applications by the men, referred to by the initials F and G, sat in a “complex cases” queue while vast numbers of others were processed.
“I am not able to exclude the real possibility that for a very substantial period of time, F and G’s applications were simply left aside and forgotten,” Justice Bromberg said.
The court’s decision gave hope to thousands of others whose citizenship applications were “put in the bottom drawer” by a department dragging its feet, the Refugee Council of Australia said.
“Our government has denied them basic rights to stability and, importantly, family reunion, through slow and targeted decision-making,” RCOA acting chief executive Tim O’Connor said.
“Today’s ruling recognises this injustice and represents a first step towards a resolution for thousands and a chance for them to start to rebuild their lives.”