People smuggler fights detention limbo

SMH

Connie Levett Immigration Reporter
December 15, 2007

THE Iraqi asylum seeker and convicted people smuggler Ali Al Jenabi took the Minister for Immigration to court yesterday to force a decision in his drawn- out application for a protection visa.

Mr Al Jenabi, who has been detained at Villawood since July last year, was in court yesterday to hear complex legal argument on whether his criminal conviction outweighed his acknowledged need for protection from persecution.

He said he was glad his day in the Federal Court had finally arrived. "It's better than sitting, waiting nothing. I hope the judge doesn't take too long to make a decision," he said.

By law, the minister is required to make decisions on claims for protection visas within 90 days. Mr Al Jenabi lodged his application in June last year, more than 17 months ago.

Mr Al Jenabi's barrister, Shane Prince, indicated he would ask Justice Lindgren to issue a mandamus writ, to require the minister to grant his client a visa or to compel him to make a decision.

The case hinges on a decision record, signed by a Department of Immigration case officer, Kate Watson, which found Australia had "protection obligations" to Mr Al Jenabi, despite his conviction for people smuggling.

The decision record was signed last December but has fallen victim to departmental infighting over whether the character test in Section 501 of the Migration Act could trump Australia's international refugee protection obligations.

Mr Prince said it was a complete decision, while Geoffrey Kennett, for the minister, suggested it made up part of a continuing assessment process.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.

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