Lawyers call for review of refugees’ protection claims due to Federal Court data breach

Hundreds of people’s personal details were disclosed on the Commonwealth Courts Database

Lawyers call for review of refugees’ protection claims due to Federal Court data breach

The Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) is calling for the re-examination of claims for protection by asylum seekers after what it called a “catastrophic” data breach at the Federal Court of Australia.

The court has confirmed that personal details of hundreds of people were disclosed on the searchable Commonwealth Courts Database. A spokesperson for the court told ABC that the disclosure, which happened over the span of years, was a “major systemic failure.”

“Publicly disclosing the names of people seeking asylum beside their pseudonyms means that anyone searching the internet can access the background information surrounding a person’s claim,” said Sarah Dale, RACS centre director and principal solicitor.

Most Read

RACS said that around 400 people seeking asylum have been identified to have had their details disclosed. The court spokesperson told ABC that it was an offence under the law for courts to publish names of people who have applied for protection visas.

“If these people were to be sent back to their countries of origin, authorities and perpetrators of persecution could use this information to enforce punishment or worse,” Dale said.

RACS said that because of the new danger to asylum seekers caused by the data breach, it has called on Minister of Home Affairs Peter Dutton to intervene and allow for the re-examination of claims for all affected asylum seekers.

“The Federal Circuit Court has essentially enabled the very private and intimate details of people’s abuse, persecution and trauma to be accessible by their perpetrators. Something must be done to protect these people,” Dale said.

Arif Hussein, a senior solicitor at RACS, said that applying for protection visas is a last chance at for many. It’s a “matter of life and death,” he said.

“Most are feeling desperate and petrified of being returned to a place where they fear persecution. For these people to then be affected by a data breach of this magnitude is highly concerning,” Hussein said.

Dale said that people who lodge appeals to the Federal Circuit Court have already gone through a lot.

“Some of their initial claims will have been processed through the restrictive Fast Track Assessment Process, which lacks a number of fundamental procedural fairness rules. The Federal Circuit Court will give them one last chance at appealing for safety, but it will only review the legalities of the process and will not allow them to speak of their experience or answer questions related to their case. These people have already had the odds stacked up against them and this data breach is just another example of the total power imbalance in this system,” Dale said.

Recent articles & video

US law school deans commit to training advocates for democracy

Afghanistan Independent Bar Association in Exile joins International Bar Association Council

UK study reveals challenges faced by bereaved families at inquests

HWL Ebsworth unveils board of partners

Seven ascend to Hall & Wilcox partnership in huge promotions round

W+K makes Asia debut with Singapore office

Most Read Articles

NSW justice system welcomes new judges

New chair takes the lead at Barry Nilsson

HWL Ebsworth partner makes the switch to McCullough Robertson

Ashurst boosts Perth office with strategic partner hires