Former minister slammed for visa failure

Les Kennedy
January 18, 2008

A FEDERAL Court judge has found that the former immigration minister, Kevin Andrews, committed an "egregious failure" of Parliament by not making a decision on whether to grant a protection visa to an Iraqi asylum seeker and convicted people smuggler.

The asylum seeker, Ali Al Jenabi, took the previous minister to court last November to force a decision on his drawn-out application for a protection visa. The application was lodged in July 2006 when Mr Al Jenabi was being held in prison in Darwin. He was sent to the Villawood detention centre and has been held there since.

"Clearly there was an egregious failure by the minister to obey Parliament's command," Judge Kevin Lindgren said of Mr Andrews's failure to make a decision within 90 days of the application, as required under the act.

In a Federal Court hearing in Sydney yesterday, Judge Lindgren said he would issue an order of "mandamus" on January 30 that would compel the new Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, to decide once and for all whether to grant the protection order that would allow Mr Al Jenabi to remain in Australia with eight other relatives already granted residency after arriving as asylum seekers.

But Senator Evans will also have 90 days to reach a decision.

A supporter of Mr Al Jenabi, Narita Russel, welcomed the ruling yesterday, saying that Mr Al Jenabi had already endured 19 months of incarceration at Villawood awaiting a decision on his fate.

"Before that he was imprisoned for four years in jail here for people smuggling, and also served one year in a Thai prison," Ms Russel said.

Lawyers for Mr Al Jenabi sought the order of mandamus, compelling the immigration minister to come to a decision, in complex legal argument about whether his criminal conviction outweighed his acknowledged need for protection from persecution.

Judge Lindgren also said he would award costs to the applicant from the Commonwealth.


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