The Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) organised a forum on January 31 to discuss the “God” powers of the immigration minister, so named because of their unlimited nature.
Chairperson Sumaya, a refugee on a temporary visa, said more than half of all the refugees brought to Australia under the Medevac law have now been released on bridging visas. However, 60 remain in detention, including 32 in the Park Hotel in Carlton. It is unclear why some have been released while others have not.
Maria O’Sullivan, from the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, said sections of the Migration Act 1958 allow the minister to make decisions that cannot be appealed to the courts or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
An example was the Novak Djokovic case, in which Alex Hawke decided that it was in the “public interest” that Djokovic be deported, because he “might” cause disorder.
O’Sullivan spoke about section 501 of the act, under which a non-resident can be detained if they have been charged with a criminal offence, which could result in a sentence of at least 12 months (even if no such sentence is imposed). She noted that successive Australian governments have kept this provision.
Adnan Choopani, a refugee detained in the Park Hotel, explained over a phone how he came to Australia when he was 15 years old. After 10 months in Christmas Island detention centre he was sent to Nauru. He was transferred to Australia under the Medevac law, but did not receive treatment for his main health problem, which is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Despite being recognised as a refugee, Choopani said he has been subject to a “cruel system” that aims to “force us to go back where we came from”. He said freedom is the only solution for PTSD.
Joey Tangaloa Taualii, who is held under section 501 of the Migration Act in the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accomodation, said he was brought to Australia from New Zealand when he was just three months old. He went to school here, has a family here, and has always thought of himself as Australian.
He was found to have committed crimes and was sent to prison. Eventually, the parole board allowed his release, saying he had been rehabilitated. Instead, he was detained again. Without going before a judge, he was taken to MITA, which he said is “worse than prison”. He is detained indefinitely, which he said amounts to a “life sentence”.