High Court decision may lead to redress for falsely imprisoned refugees


Following the High Court decision this week, compensation for false imprisonment is now possible for refugees who have been detained indefinitely because they do not have a visa but have no prospect of removal to another country.

“We welcome this decision,” said Mr Tony Kerin, spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA). “The government’s detention policy, which has resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of people spending years locked up with no idea of when and if they will be free, has had serious impacts on the health of many people.”

“People should not be imprisoned unless they are serving a sentence for a crime they have committed. It is critical that those people still facing indefinite detention are released – it is unlawful to keep them in detention.

“By making it clear that it is unlawful to detain people if there is no real prospect of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future, the High Court decision will open up new opportunities for some refugees to be compensated for their time in detention.

“Indefinite detention is cruel and can have very harmful long-term effects. We have seen terrifying demonstrations of psychological ill-health in immigration detention centres.

“This decision allows us to reflect on current proceedings and anyone who was detained in the past 25-year period that satisfies the test may have an avenue for redress.”

ALA members include lawyers who represent refugees who have been harmed by their experience in immigration detention.

“For those people seeking redress for their time in immigration detention, this decision will give hope that they will be compensated for the serious harm caused by their detention,” said Mr Kerin.

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