SYDNEY - Australia’s Federal Court has challenged the way that an official refugee appeals panel handles evidence in some asylum cases. Judges have been examining why an Afghan Hazara man’s claim for a protection visa was rejected.
Failings in Australia’s system of reviewing appeals by failed asylum seekers have been exposed by an Afghan Hazara man, who has taken his case to the Federal Court.
Judges criticized the Refugee Review Tribunal, the RRT, for refusing to accept that the Hazara man, known as "Syed," who is in his early ‘30s and has only one leg, was at any greater risk in his home country because of his disability.
The court found that an RRT member who decided the man’s case in 2013 had inserted three paragraphs from other asylum seekers' refugee applications.
Thomas McLoughlin, "Syed’s" lawyer, says the case against him was riddled with errors.
“The RRT hearing had cut and paste errors in it from an unrelated decision," he said. "It referred to a 68-year old person who was obviously not this applicant, who is not 68, and they relied on information relating to a completely unrelated person.”
The tribunal’s previous decision to reject the man’s asylum claims has been overturned by the Federal Court. Judges said the RRT had failed to discharge its statutory functions.
The panel, which is now known as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, had been found to have used templates or cut-and-pasted information on separate asylum seeker applications several times. "Syed’s” case will now be sent back to the tribunal for reconsideration.
Australia currently grants refugee visas to about 16,000 people under official humanitarian programs each year. Canberra has also offered sanctuary to 12,000 refugees fleeing the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.