Asylum seekers denied rights, lawyers say

Treating asylum seekers' rights as dispensable and inferior has become a common pattern within the Australian legal system, human rights lawyers say.

Following revelations that Australian Federal Police officers have systematically failed to offer asylum seekers under criminal investigation the opportunity to take part in identification parades, legal practitioners in the field said this was part of a broader denial of legal rights to this group.

''This is part of a broader and deeply concerning trend of treating the basic rights of asylum seekers as dispensable,'' the director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, Daniel Webb, said. ''For good reason, criminal law contains strict procedures and safeguards. You can't just ignore them because an accused person happens to be an asylum seeker. All people must be equal before the law.''

On Wednesday, Fairfax Media revealed that an asylum seeker charged with people smuggling was denied the opportunity to take part in an identification parade because the AFP officer believed it was impractical to do so.

The officer said that there was a general policy within the AFP of not conducting such parades for asylum seekers because of the difficulties of getting accurate information about their whereabouts from the Department of Immigration.

The AFP hierarchy and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison have denied this claim.

However, on Wednesday legal practitioners backed up the AFP officer's claim and reported that other basic legal rights were also being denied to asylum seekers.

Criminal defence barrister Greg Barns said it was not uncommon for asylum seekers on short-term visas to be placed in immigration detention after being charged with a criminal offence despite the fact that they had been granted bail.

He pointed to the case of Sri Lankan Daxchan Selvarajah, who was immediately placed in immigration detention last year after he was charged with indecent assault, despite being granted conditional liberty in the NSW Supreme Court.

''If a person is an asylum seeker on a visa and they're charged with a criminal offence they can be given bail just like every other member of the community, if the court determines that they are not a flight risk or pose a danger to the community, '' Mr Barns said.

''However, what Immigration has been doing is immediately revoking their visas and placing them into detention. So even if the court determines that they are entitled to conditional liberty in accordance with the presumption of innocence, Immigration will take that liberty away.''

But Mr Morrison dismissed the complaints as "hype".

“This is just more hype from refugee advocates and lawyers who have a clear objective in seeking to undermine the government’s strong border protection policies that are stopping the boats, saving lives, and saving taxpayers $2.5 billion in the budget,” he said.

In March, Mr Morrison scrapped legal services for asylum seekers who arrived by boat or plane without a visa.

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The story Asylum seekers denied rights, lawyers say first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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