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In a landmark decision, the Federal Court of Australia has today ruled against the Minister of Immigration on the question of citizenship for people of refugee background. The Minister was found to have unreasonably delayed in making decisions on citizenship applications and was ordered to reconsider the
applications of the two applicants in question.

The case, brought by the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) with pro bono legal support, provides hope for 10,231 people that the department confirmed were in similar situations. This group of people have had their citizenship applications ‘put in the bottom drawer’, as the Department has dragged its feet in
offering this large group of new Australians citizenship.

Lawyers for the former refugees argued that these delays have been unreasonable and appear discriminatory.

The Court heard the excessive delays have caused significant anxiety for the many thousands affected, as they have been unable to reunite with their families while their citizenship remains in limbo. For people who are recognised as refugees, it is extremely difficult to bring family members to safety in Australia without citizenship. As such, delays in processing citizenship applications have left many in prolonged situations of danger and persecution, despite having a parent, sibling or other close relative who has been recognised as a refugee in
Australia.

Tim O’Connor, acting CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia, said ‘today’s decision is a landmark ruling, providing hope for over 10 000 people around Australia who have been denied justice by the Immigration Department. Our government has denied them basic rights to stability and, importantly, family reunion, through slow and targeted decision-making. Today’s ruling recognizes this injustice and represents a first step towards a resolution for thousands and a chance for them to start to rebuild their lives.’

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