The United Nations Has Called on Australia to Urgently Release a Blind Refugee From Detention
Kumar — a 36-year-old refugee from Sri Lanka with multiple disabilities — has been held in a Sydney immigration detention center for nearly a decade. Now, a key United Nations body has called on Australia to urgently free and compensate the man, claiming his lengthy detention violates multiple human rights laws.
"The Government of Australia should take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of [Kumar] without delay," the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) stated. "Australia should bring [Kumar's] case into conformity with the relevant international norms."
WGAD claim Australia has breached five articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and four articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The group has further requested an independent investigation into Kumar's “arbitrary deprivation of liberty” and a full overall of Australia’s Migration Act.
Kumar, a name used to protect the man's identity, had endured torture during Sri Lanka's 25-year-long civil war.
He obtained refugee status in Australia in late 2010, just months after he first fled to the country. Despite Australia contending that he would face harm if forced to return to his home nation, Kumar still hasn't been released from detention or had his Australian visa approved.
Kumar has mental health issues, an acquired brain injury, and is legally blind.
Kumar's lawyer, Alison Battisson, said his continued detention was appalling behaviour from an advanced, democratic nation.
"Kumar is a delightful, hilarious gentleman. The impact on his health, however, is severe," she told Global Citizen. "He has been hospitalized on a number of occasions for physical and mental health issues. Doctors have opined that they do not know how well he can be due to detention. He must be released to get well."
The Australian government claim Kumar is legally detained under the Australian Migration Act — which has no set time constraint for the length of immigration detention.
Initial security concerns over Kumar's connection with the Tamil Tigers — a Sri Lankan separatist organization — saw a delay in his case's progression. Despite the security concerns being overridden — and the fact that Kumar has committed no crime — his application for a temporary protection visa is still being processed.
"It is now entirely unclear why it has taken so long to examine Kumar's case," Battisson told Global Citizen.
Australia's Department of Home Affairs has acknowledged the WGAD report.
"The Department of Home Affairs is reviewing the contents of the [report] and will follow-up in due course," the department told the Guardian Australia. "Australia has a long history of engaging cooperatively with the United Nations and its mandate holders, and welcomes open and constructive engagement with the human rights system."
The WGAD has now released nine reports in two years calling on Australian to amend refugee detention cases.