SYDNEY : Court overrules release of child asylum seekers
Australia’s High Court backed the government’s tough policy on
illegal immigrants today by overruling a lower court decision that
the mandatory detention of child asylum seekers was illegal.
In a landmark ruling, the High Court unanimously allowed an appeal by
the immigration ministry against the release last year of five
siblings from a South Australian detention centre on orders of the
country’s Family Court.
The Family Court ruled in June that the government’s policy of
indefinitely detaining child asylum seekers violated UN conventions
and it ordered the release of the five siblings, who were freed in
The government immediately appealed the ruling, which could have led
to the release of more than 100 children from detention centres.
The High Court today ruled that the Family Court did not have the
jurisdiction either to free the five children or issue orders
concerning the general welfare of children held in immigration
The judges agreed with the immigration ministry that Australia’s
Migrant Act, which provides for the mandatory detention of illegal
noncitizens, included children.
"So far as Australian law was concerned, the respondent children were
therefore lawfully detained," their judgment said.
Lawyers for the family of the five children at the centre of the
court case said they would seek a federal court injunction against
their return to detention.
The five, two boys and three girls aged seven to 12, have been living
in the South Australian capital of Adelaide. Their identities cannot
The conservative government of Prime Minister John Howard has
detained hundreds of asylum seekers of all ages in remote camps in
Australia and the Pacific as part of a tough three-year-old policy
designed to discourage illegal immigration.
Under the policy all asylum seekers face mandatory detention pending
sometimes lengthy legal reviews of their status and eventual
The practice has been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations and
human rights groups, notably over its inclusion of children. - AFP