September 22, 2012
AN Afghan asylum seeker has won a last-minute reprieve against deportation, which is understood to have been scheduled for 2pm tomorrow.
A Federal Magistrates Court judge overturned the decision by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen to deport the 34-year-old Hazara man from Australia on the grounds his application for refugee status was misconceived.
The deportation would have been the first forced eviction of an asylum seeker to Afghanistan.
The court’s decision comes as a group of 18 Sri Lankan men today chose to return home rather than be sent to Nauru for processing.
Another asylum-seeker vessel is tonight in distress in waters north of Christmas Island. It is reportedly carrying 200 people.
The judge said the Afghan man’s deportation warranted careful and full consideration. The matter was adjourned until a hearing in October.
“It has never been explained to me why there is a particular urgency [to deport the man],” she told the court.
Lawyers for the man, from the Ghazni province, sought the injunction on the grounds that he had not exhausted his appeal rights after he was refused refugee status.
The man is currently in a high-security unit at Villawood detention centre in Sydney, where it’s believed he was taken to in anticipation of his deportation.
They also argued that the only place to which he could be deported was Afghanistan, where he insists he has a well-founded fear of persecution and would be “at real risk of arbitrary deprivation of his life”.
It is understood immigration authorities have been pushing Afghanistan to accept up to 10 men under an arrangement signed last year for the return of failed asylum seekers, despite warnings from human rights groups that the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated.
It is believed Afghan officials have resisted issuing travel documents for the men until local authorities can establish their identity – leading Australia to make a direct appeal to Kabul to allow the deportations.
The asylum seekers facing deportation had been living in the community for six months on a bridging visa. They had been released from detention in remote Western Australia.