A Sri Lankan Tamil mother-of-three will remain in indefinite detention after an independent reviewer upheld ASIO’s assessment that she is a threat to national security.
While two refugees and their three children were released on Wednesday after the reviewer recommended that their adverse assessments be lifted, Ranjini is one of three refugees whose ASIO assessments were upheld.
The five cases are the first of 56 to be reviewed by retired judge Margaret Stone, who was appointed last October after the High Court struck down the regulation that prevented them from being granted protection visas.
”The fact that two out of the five got a positive result at this review says nothing about what the proportions might be in the future,” Ms Stone told Fairfax Media.
She also praised ASIO’s response to the reviews, saying: ”Throughout the whole process, ASIO has been entirely cooperative and provided me with not only all the information that it is required to provide me with, but also all the facilities and resources to do the job well.
”At no time did I ever feel that they were in any way trying to obstruct me or were resisting the process. In fact, I’ve received every help that I could possibly want.”
Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs said it was still a concern the ”very harsh” ASIO assessments could not be challenged in court.
”It is a parlous situation. We’d argue for much greater speed (of the reviews) and frankly, for access to a court to determine if the evidence against them stands up,” Professor Triggs said.
She said any court hearing might have to be held in-camera to accommodate security concerns.
”There are another 52 and we have no idea as to what the state of the evidence is.”
Although ASIO is not bound to accept Ms Stone’s recommendations, the agency lifted its adverse assessments of the two parents in the Rahavan family the same day it received her final report. A draft report had been received more than two weeks earlier.
”When the process was first announced, there was a lot of comment about the fact that I could only make recommendations and why would ASIO take any notice – and I think the answer to that is exactly what has happened,” Ms Stone said.
All of those with adverse assessments maintain they are not security threats and are seeking reviews. Their cases were prioritised according to factors including their mental and physical health, family situation and how quickly they responded when given an unclassified summary of the ASIO case against them.
Under the review process – announced in response to pressure from human rights advocates and a parliamentary inquiry – the cases of Ranjini and the other two whose assessments were upheld will be automatically reviewed in another 12 months.
The opposition has signalled that it is unlikely to continue with the reviews if it wins the September 14 election.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young – who befriended the Rahavan family during their time in detention – said the periodic reviews had to be enshrined in law.
”This family have been in detention under 24-hour watch for almost four years and now we find out it was unwarranted. The children will never get those years back despite suffering so much. I have been visiting the family over the past three years and each time I saw them their mental health and welfare was worse.” (The Age)