The Federal Court of Australia has ruled a man in his 60s must no longer be held at an immigration detention facility in Melbourne’s north due to the risk of him contracting coronavirus.
- A 68-year-old man will be moved from an immigration detention centre in Melbourne’s north due underlying health conditions and his risk of contracting coronavirus
- The Federal Court order was an interim order made while the man’s hearing continued
- The Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton must give the man’s lawyers 24 hours notice as to where the man will be moved to
On Monday, Justice Bernard Murphy made an interim order to Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton to cease detaining the 68-year-old man at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) centre in Broadmeadows.
While the final hearing of the case has not been heard, the court was satisfied the man’s current detention at MITA could be in breach of the Department of Home Affair’s duty of care.
Justice Murphy’s reasons for the order will be handed down later this week.
Where the man is moved to is at the discretion of the Mr Dutton.
The man and his lawyers must be given 24 hours notice of where he is to be moved to, which may be appealed.
Principal solicitor at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Carolyn Graydon, said it was the “first significant court decision” addressing the Federal Government’s duty of care to people in immigration detention at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
She said the decision “would be applicable to other detainees who have pre-existing health vulnerabilities or other features like their age, which would put them at risk of coronavirus”.
The man must be moved from MITA by Wednesday into alternative accommodation.
“They could release him into community detention, on a bridging visa, transfer him to an alterative palace of detention like the Mantra Hotel [in Preston], or detention interstate,” Mr Grayson said.
Ms Grayson said the man being released on a bridging visa would be a “perfectly viable, immediate, cost-effective answer to this problem”.
The man’s lawyer, Sanmati Verma, said the court’s decision made it clear the Federal Government was unable to ensure the safety of vulnerable people such as her client in detention.
“There is a clear solution to the situation, which has been implemented in the US, UK and Europe, but not in Australia – which is to release vulnerable people into the community, where they can be safe,” she said.
Ms Verma said it was not a case of what health measures were not in place in detention facilities.
“The nature of a closed detention environment means it’s a hotbed for the transmission of Covid,” she said.
“There’s almost very little that can be done to prevent Covid from entering and spreading.
“Things like shared ventilation, coming and going of staff, staff being out in the community subject to high rates of community transmission.
Ms Verma said the man had a family in Melbourne he could stay with who were Australian citizens.
“He could return to them and be taken care of and kept safe by his family members,” she said.
The man was detained late last year after spending nine years in Australia on a bridging visa.
He was detained after an “adverse assessment” was made against him, Ms Verma said, about his overseas business practices 15 years ago.
“This ruling means nothing other than what’s been conclusively found by public health experts, which is to say, people in prison, people in detention centres, people who are vulnerable to Covid in those settings really ought not be there,” Ms Verma said.
“How to reconcile that public health reality with long-term policy decisions that Government’s have to make is the real difficulty.”