• 19 AUG 20
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    Federal Government set to transfer sick, elderly Melbourne man away from family to Perth immigration detention following COVID-19 court ruling

    Federal Government set to transfer sick, elderly Melbourne man away from family to Perth immigration detention following COVID-19 court ruling

    Media Release

    19 August 2020 –

    On 10 August 2020, the Federal Court ordered the Federal Government to stop detaining a 68 year old man at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation, due to the health risks of COVID-19.

    The man, who has close family living in Melbourne, has underlying health conditions including diabetes which put him at greater risk of serious illness or death if he contracts the virus.

    The Department of Home Affairs notified the man’s lawyers that rather than allowing him to return home to his family in Melbourne, it intended to move him to the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre, located an hour outside of Perth.

    The man asked the Federal Court to intervene to prevent the Government from flying him to Western Australia due to the health risks of the transfer. Today the court dismissed the man’s application and allowed the Government to transfer him to Western Australia, on the basis that strict infection prevention measures such as masks, gloves and social distancing would be put in place throughout the transfer.

    This court case follows the announcement from the Federal Government that it is reopening Christmas Island immigration detention centre and flying hundreds of people in detention and staff between Victoria, NSW, Western Australia and Christmas Island, rather than releasing people from immigration detention. Countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada, have released large numbers of people from immigration detention to protect people from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Sanmati Verma, Senior Lawyer at Clothier Anderson Immigration Lawyers who is representing the man:

    “Over the past few years, the Minister for Home Affairs has gone out of his way to create new powers and exercise them personally. But in this case, the Court heard, the Minister has not even been briefed on our client’s circumstances.

    “It beggars belief that the government would fly a sick, elderly man thousands of kilometres from his family home in Melbourne. The Commonwealth’s response to the health crisis in the detention network has been haphazard and dangerous, for detainees, staff and the broader community.”

    David Burke, Legal Director at Human Rights Law Centre:

    “Medical experts have warned for months about the risks of COVID-19 in immigration detention in Australia. The Morrison Government failed to listen to experts and reduce the number of people held in detention and the Court recognised the seriousness of this risk and ordered the Government to act.

    “Detention facilities around the country continue to create unacceptable health risks for the people held there, the staff, and the broader community. Instead of moving hundreds of people around the country in the middle of a pandemic, it is time to urgently move people out of unsafe detention centres and into the community where they can safely socially distance.”

    Carolyn Graydon, Principal Lawyer and Manager of Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Human Rights Law Program:

    “The ASRC is extremely worried for this man’s life, as evidence presented in court clearly showed there is a significant risk of contraction of COVID19 during transit and transfer to Yongah Hill detention centre in WA from Melbourne.

    “It is disheartening to see the extreme lengths the Minister is taking to avoid the only sensible, reasonable and humane outcome, being the release of this man from detention to his home, where he can protect himself from Covid19 transmission by self- isolating in the community, rather than continuing to be held in a high-risk detention environment which threatens his life.”

    Read Justice Murphy’s reasons for initial judgment in the case of BNL20 v Minister for Home Affairs [2020] FCA 1180


    Media contact:

    Marcella Brassett, ASRC & Clothier Anderson: 0411 026 142
    Michelle Bennett, Communications Director, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519

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