Until now, a catch in our legal system has left some refugees facing the possibility of spending the rest of their lives in detention.

When an asylum seeker is granted refugee status, ASIO (the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) has the power to veto their entry to Australia based on security concerns. With no way of challenging ASIO's decision, these refugees are left in limbo, unable to return home or enter Australia.

Thankfully, the Australian Government has announced a fairer appeals system for victims of this loophole. The announcement comes after a recent high court decision ruled it unlawful for refugees to be denied a protection visa without judicial review.

What was the problem?

To gain a protection visa in Australia, an asylum seeker must fulfill two requirements:

First, they must be deemed a legitimate refugee by DIAC (the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship). When refugee status is granted to someone, it means they are facing persecution in their homeland, and Australia can no longer legally (or safely) send them home.

Second, they must pass an ASIO security assessment - but this process is problematic. ASIO is notoriously secretive about their findings, and refugees with a negative security assessment have no ability to challenge a negative assessment.

What happens to those not granted security clearance?


"My family and I were living in the legal black hole. Your day-to-day life is restricted in every humiliating way imaginable. And with all of this, you are not given a single reason why and you are not told when the ordeal will end."


Yogachandran Rahavan

Quite simply, they are stuck in detention - possibly forever. The Australian government cannot return them home due to their refugee status, nor can they enter Australia.

Yogachandran Rahavan and his wife Sumanthy are two victims of this legal oddity. The Sri Lankan couple has spent the past three years detained in Sydney's Villawood detention centre with their three young children. Their life is heavily monitored, security watching the family at all times. Their daughter is unable to attend school without accompaniment.

Yogachandran describes the constant battle of their life in detention and the uncertainty of their future: "My family and I were living in the legal black hole. Your day-to-day life is restricted in every humiliating way imaginable. And with all of this, you are not given a single reason why and you are not told when the ordeal will end."

The Rahavan family are not alone. 53 other refugees are currently caught in this turmoil.

Government moves toward a better, fairer system

On the 5th of October, the high court ruled the current system unlawful. The Australian Government has responded by setting up an independent review process for ASIO security assessments

Now, an independent reviewer will look at the merits, process and material that ASIO has relied on to make each assessment. If they feel that the assessment was not reached fairly, they will recommend that ASIO reverse its decision.

While the new system is not perfect, it is a drastic improvement, and in line with the solution that Amnesty has been advocating for some time.