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Australia Grants Iraqi Refugee Residency Visa After 5 Year Detention


Australia's immigration minister has defended the government's treatment of an Iraqi man held in detention on the island of Nauru for nearly five years. Muhammad Faisal has been granted asylum after Australia's main spy agency altered its security assessment of him. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

Throughout his years in immigration detention, asylum seeker Muhammad Faisal was classified as a national security risk by Australian intelligence services.

The government in Canberra has now granted the 27-year-old Iraqi a permanent protection visa, which allows him to live indefinitely in Australia. He now is not considered to be a security risk, although officials have not said why his status was changed.

Faisal was held for nearly five years in an Australian-sponsored detention center on the tiny South Pacific island of Nauru. Last year, when his mental condition worsened, he was sent to the Australian city of Brisbane for treatment.

Senator Kerry Nettle, from the opposition Greens Party, says the government mistreated Faisal.

"He never understood why he'd had an adverse security assessment made against him. He was never told and his lawyers were never told," said Kerry. "So a decision was made to not allow this refugee to live in Australia because of a bogus, inaccurate security assessment that was kept secret from him and his lawyers."

Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews says Faisal was not treated inappropriately and says that Australia must be cautious when it comes to border protection.

"We've had a long history over the last few years of people smuggling, a long history of people seeking to jump refugee queues, a long history of people trying to come to Australia in untoward ways," he said.

After he arrived in Australia, the Immigration Department ruled that Faisal had genuine fears of persecution if he returned to Iraq. However, the ASIO, country's major spy agency, overruled that decision.

He was then sent to the detention camp on Nauru.

At one point, more than 1,000 asylum seekers who had attempted to enter Australia illegally were housed on Nauru. Now only one remains. Australia has denied him a visa, but he will soon leave for Sweden, where he has been granted asylum.

Australia detains most asylum seekers who arrive illegally.

The country accepts about 14 thousand refugees every year under official humanitarian programs.

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