Commonwealth to pay asylum seeker $350,000 in damages

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday June 8, 2021

(AAP Image/Peter Rae)

The commonwealth has been ordered to pay an asylum seeker $350,000 in damages within 28 days after the man was found to have been ‘deprived of his liberty’ by being unlawfully detained for at least two years.

Federal Court judge Justice Geoffrey Flick handed down the judgement on Monday, finding that the asylum seeker should have been released from detention in mid-2019, ‘at the very latest’.

The man was only released this month, after nearly three years in detention.

The asylum seeker, known as MZZHL, was born in Iraq. He arrived in Australia in May 2012, as an ‘unauthorised maritime arrival’ and was detained, the judgement noted. The man applied for a protection visa, but it was rejected later that year. In May 2013 he was granted a temporary Bridging Visa and released from detention, but was again detained in August 2018.

READ MORE: Home Affairs ordered to pay asylum seekers over data breach

In October 2018 the asylum seeker asked to be returned to Iraq, but withdrew the request five months later, stating that the Iraqi government was looking for him and he would be in danger if he returned.

While the man had been detained ‘for the purpose of removing him from Australia’, the commonwealth conceded that ‘steps should have been taken to inquire of Iraq whether or not it would be prepared to receive involuntary removals’, the judgement noted.

Flick concluded that the man was lawfully detained between August and October 2018, and between October 2018 and March 2019. However, he found the man’s detention became unlawful ‘shortly after March 2019’, and he should have been released soon after.

“The consequence of the conclusion now reached is that the applicant has been unlawfully deprived of his liberty and should have been released from detention soon after March 2019 or (at the very latest) by no later than mid-2019,” Flick said.

Flick ordered the commonwealth to pay the man $350,000 in damages, as well as legal costs, within 28 days.

READ MORE: Mixed results for asylum seekers vs Peter Dutton at High Court


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