CANBERRA: 16 October 2012 - UNHCR has today welcomed the changes to security assessment processes for refugees in Australia as a positive first step towards a more transparent and fair system.
The changes move Australia more into line with comparable western countries which are also facing the same challenges in balancing legitimate national security needs with a fair and humane approach to refugees in need of international protection.
The appointment of an Independent Reviewer, who is able to examine the materials used by ASIO in coming to the conclusion that a refugee poses a security threat, is something that UNHCR has been advocating for some time.
UNHCR also welcomed the new provisions for refugees to be provided with an unclassified summary of the reasons why an adverse security assessment has been made, and to have their cases reviewed every 12 months.
The ability for a refugee to have their case reviewed every 12 months is an important step, given that those with negative security assessments are currently held in open-ended immigration detention.
For some time UNHCR has been concerned by refugees in Australia receiving adverse security assessments, without reasons being given, and remaining in protracted indefinite detention as a result of the adverse security assessment.
Currently there are over 50 refugees in this situation, including young children.
UNHCR notes that the Government is still considering its response to the broader issues raised in the High Court decision last week, and it looks forward to this response with interest.
In particular, UNHCR hopes to see a more flexible and nuanced system of grading and managing security risks, on an individualized ‘case-by-case’ basis. This would prevent refugees being subjected to open-ended periods of detention in circumstances which may not necessarily be proportionate to the actual risk they pose to the community.
UNHCR hosted an Expert Roundtable on National Security Assessments in May 2012, and has made submissions on this issue to the Independent Review of the Intelligence Community, and to the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Immigration Detention Network (on 19 August, 22 November and 16 December 2011).