Australia pledges action on long-term immigration detainees
A Briton and an Indian held in Australian immigration detention for more than five years are among 61 detainees whose cases will be resolved by the end of April, the government pledged on Thursday.
The deadline to deal with an issue that has drawn fire from rights activists for years was set by new Immigration Minister Chris Evans, whose centre-left Labour Party took power in elections last November.
All 61 detainees whose cases will be reviewed have been held for more than two years under the widely-criticised immigration policies of the former conservative government led by John Howard.
"I am deeply concerned that so many detention cases have taken so long to resolve," Evans said in a statement.
Among the cases are those of a 64-year-old British man held for six years and a 46-year-old Indian man detained for five years and 10 months.
No details were given of the individual cases, but Evans said "a number of them seem to fall into the category where there is no solution other than finding some sort of answer in Australia."
"Some of them are from countries where we'll never return them to or we'll never get travel papers and under the previous Howard regime they just left them there."
In January, Australia's official human rights watchdog criticised conditions in some of the government's immigration detention centres as a "disgrace."
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission said illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers were still held for too long and called for the policy of mandatory detention to be scrapped.
Several bungles and miscarriages of justice involving the harsh policy have come to light in recent years.
In one case, a Vietnamese immigrant was held in detention for six years despite having a valid visa before being released in 2005.
Earlier this month, a German-born woman was awarded $2.4 million (Dh8.81 million) compensation for wrongful detention.
Cornelia Rau, a legal permanent resident in Australia, was held behind bars for more than 10 months in 2004 and 2005 when officials picked her up and wrongly assumed she was an illegal immigrant. (AFP)
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