'Boat people' win release
By Stephen Robson
PERTH — A Federal Court ruling led to the release of 26 Chinese "boat people" in Port Hedland on August 13.
The decision was the first test of federal government legislation enacted in May 1992. This legislation set a maximum limit of 273 days detention. Justice Alan Neaves ruled that the 273-day limit had expired before the immigration department refused a claim for refugee status by Jie Xin Tang.
Tang, a Chinese national landed on the Kimberley coast on December 31, 1991 along with 55 others on the Isabella. The asylum seekers survived desert conditions and summer heat for two weeks before being discovered.
Another 25 Chinese "boat people" were immediately released following the Federal Court ruling.
"Justice Neave's order is recognition of the injustice which has been committed by the government on these people, but is distressing for those still detained", Greens (WA) Senator Christabel Chamarette explained. Chamarette is a member of the federal parliamentary committee investigating the detention policy.
Currently there are 20,000 asylum seekers in Australia. Only the 305 who arrived by boat have been subject to detention.
Chamarette said the government "should immediately release on humanitarian grounds all boat people detainees, not only the ones who benefit from the decision brought down by Justice Neave in the Federal Court today".
"The government should grant residency on humanitarian grounds to those people who have been detained for long periods of time of up to 31/2 years. Others should be released into the community while their applications are fully processed."
However, it seems Labor has learnt little from the decision and will continue to pursue its attacks on human rights. Federal immigration minister Nick Bolkus immediately announced that the department would appeal the Federal Court decision.