Safeguards are needed to ensure ASIO assessments of refugees are fair, the Human Rights Law Centre warns.
Refugees should be allowed to challenge negative ASIO security assessments, a Senate inquiry has been told.
The Human Rights Law Centre gave evidence at a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday into changes to migration legislation that strengthen the federal government’s ability to refuse protection visas to people deemed a security threat.
The move follows rulings by the High Court which have found adverse security assessments from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) did not necessarily prevent a person being given a protection visa.
Law centre spokesman Daniel Webb said the proposed changes put ASIO assessments at the centre of refugee processing but contained no safeguards to ensure the process was fair.
He highlighted the case of a Sri Lankan chicken farmer, his wife and three children who arrived in Australia in 2009.
The family were found to be genuine refugees but languished in detention for four years.
On the eve of a High Court case testing the lawfulness of their treatment, ASIO revoked its negative assessment and the family was released, Mr Webb said.
“If they had a right to appeal perhaps they would have been released four years sooner and three young children wouldn’t have spent their childhoods in immigration detention,” Mr Webb said.
He said refugees should be given the same right as Australian citizens and permanent residents to appeal ASIO assessments.
In a submission to the inquiry, the Department of Immigration said the bill’s purpose was to resolve the immigration status uncertainty of certain “non-citizens” and protect the Australian community.