Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Tran Case - yet another failure in due process

Photo: Tony Tran and his wife

I am getting very tired of writing about failures in due process. Surely at some point there must be sufficient public outrage to fix the problem.

According to newspaper reports, the facts in the Tram case appear to be.

Mr Tran arrived in Australia from Vietnam in 1991 or 1992. He was then twenty. He was granted a bridging visa, but this was subsequently revoked. However, it appears that the Department of Immigration failed to properly advise Mr Tran of the revocation. Apparently, the letter was returned unopened. Presumably Mr Tran was no longer at that address.

Unaware that his visa had been revoked, Mr Tran continued to live happily in this country, ultimately marrying a Korean girl and gaining a son. In December 1999, Mr Tran applied to the Department for spouse visa for his wife. He was arrested on the spot and taken into custody without even being given the opportunity to say good bye to his son.

Mr Tran spent the next five years in immigration detention. During that time he was badly bashed by another detainee, leaving permanent medical damage. His son was taken into care. The Immigration Department tried to deport the child to South Korea, apparently even changing his name. When that failed, the child remained in foster care in Australia.

Mr Tran's case was discovered during the review of the Immigration Department triggered by the Solon affair. Wrongfully detained, he was released. Reunited with his son, he is now trying to put his life back together again.

There may well be more facts that I am not aware of and, in any event, the matter is now before the Victorian Supreme Court. I would say only this.

When an injustice is done to an individual by one of our Governments we are all diminished. Further, how can we be sure that we will be fairly treated ourselves if others are not?


I have just been watching the ABC Lateline program on this matter. It provided more information, but did not alter the core conclusion: Mr Tran was wrongfully detained. I will provide a link later.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has identified two hundred - yes, that's right, two hundred - cases of wrongful detention by the Immigration Department.

I really don't know what to say. I knew that over 200 cases had been referred for investigation, that was reported, but 200 wrongful imprisonments is huge. Yes, I know that some action has been taken to improve things, but 200 cases.

This is beginning to shape, or should be beginning to shape, as one of the largest scandals in Australian history.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman made the point that it was up to the individuals involved to decide whether or not, like Mr Tran, they would go public. He also said that he expected more to come out as other legal action for compensation commenced.

Two hundred cases, of which perhaps half a dozen are so far in the public domain. That leaves an awful lot still to come out.

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