ASIO has delayed the release of 900 refugees from immigration detention because it had not carried out security checks, a Senate estimate hearing on February 24 revealed.
Refugees can be held indefinitely after their visa approval until checks on their background, family networks and “risk” level are complete.
Lateline said on March 1 that it took an average of 66 days to process one person. But some refugees have been held for 12 months or longer.
In December, a Tamil refugee, who has a protection visa, began a 49-day hunger strike in Villawood detention centre to protest against a negative assessment of his asylum claim by ASIO.
As a result he can be held indefinitely and his chances of claiming asylum in another country are affected.
Refugee activists say security checks are a factor in the poor conditions and overcrowding now chronic in Australia’s detention centres.