Peter Dutton to be asked to fund lawyer for asylum seeker’s medevac challenge
Peter Dutton will be asked to fund a senior lawyer for an asylum seeker whose court case could impact about 100 others detained under medevac laws.
The home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, will be asked to fund a senior lawyer for an asylum seeker whose court case could lead to the release of more than 100 others detained under medical evacuation laws.
The full bench of the federal court on Friday ordered that lawyers for Dutton seek the minister’s approval to fund counsel for the Iranian asylum seeker known by a pseudonym.
Justice John Griffiths said because the case could impact about 100 other matters involving asylum seekers and refugees detained under medevac laws it was “highly desirable” a senior lawyer was retained.
The request was being made in the interests of ensuring justice for the asylum seeker and more widely, the judge said. Griffiths noted other cases had been delayed pending the outcome of the Iranian man’s appeal against a December ruling in the federal circuit court.
He hoped the request to Dutton and other matters – which resulted in the case being adjourned on Friday – could be resolved quickly. “For obvious reasons, it’s important this case is heard sooner rather than later,” the judge said.
The detainee is currently being represented pro bono by Sydney lawyers and migration agents Daniel Taylor and Noeline Harendran.
The court request for counsel, if agreed to by Dutton, would allow a more senior lawyer to be funded to assist them. Publicly-funded legal assistance for people who arrive in Australia without a visa was cut in 2014.
The man argues his detention under the repealed medevac laws is unlawful because he has not received the medical treatment that was the basis for his detention.
He arrived in Australia from Papua New Guinea in July 2019 after the independent health advice panel deemed his psychological condition required medical treatment. The man says that far from receiving treatment, his detention in Australia has worsened his condition.
A hospital discharge summary from May – tendered to the court during an earlier hearing – showed he was suffering from severe psychotic depression and had a history of trauma. He also had back pain and occipital lymphoma, the summary stated.
The interest in the man’s case within the “intensified environment of detention” had distressed him, Taylor said, especially given it was of significant importance to other refugees.
“I’m not at all saying the court has done anything wrong, all I’m saying is that is what is occurring,” he said.
The asylum seeker did not join the video hearing from detention on Friday. Justice Melissa Perry flagged the possibility that any evidence he may give at a future hearing could be given in a closed court.
She also raised the prospect that given his request to be granted a visa remained open within the department, it was possible that could be resolved before the next court hearing – an eventuality that would result in the matter concluding and the broader issue of the legal status of medevac asylum seekers and refugees remaining unresolved.
Others detained in Australia under medevac laws have been granted visas within days of filing legal proceedings, lawyers have told Guardian Australia.
The case was adjourned to a date to be determined.
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