The High Court has decided a special case on ‘fast track reviewable’ refugee visa decisions in Pt 7AA of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) and the operation of s 57(2). Section 57(2) provides that, in considering a visa application, the Minister must give particulars of ‘relevant information’ to the applicant in a way that the Minister considers is appropriate in the circumstances; ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that the applicant understands why that information is relevant; and invite the applicant to comment on it. Pt 7AA provides the structure for fast track review, which requires that ‘fast track reviewable’ decisions by the Minister be automatically reviewed by the Immigration Assessment Authority to affirm the decision or remit it for further consideration.
The plaintiff, an Iranian citizen, applied for a temporary protection visa on the basis that he was a Christian and would face a real chance of harm if returned to Iran, and became a ‘fast track applicant’ (see at ). In support of this application, he stated that he regularly attended a Melbourne church, and submitted a letter of support from the Reverend of that church (at ). With the plaintiff’s consent, the Minister’s delegate contacted the Reverend, who mentioned that he attended the church only irregularly: the delegate did not share the file note mentioning this response with the plaintiff or invite any comment on the regularity of his attendance (at ). The delegate’s refused to grant a temporary protection on the basis that he had not genuinely converted to Christianity and would not face persecution on return to Iran, based partly on Reverend’s information about church attendance (see ff).
On review, the Authority considered the Reverend’s information and affirmed the delegate’s decision, though it rejected the delegate’s conclusion that the plaintiff had attended the church solely to strengthen his refugee claim, and instead found that he attended church because he enjoyed social contact, not because of any real commitment to Christianity (at ). In coming to that conclusion, the Authority did not interview the plaintiff or his ‘supporters’ Continue reading