16 July 2007
THE decision of Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews to cancel Dr Haneef's visa is a scandalous abuse of power. Under the Migration Act, a non-citizen who does not have a visa must be detained until they obtain a visa or until they are removed from Australia. The effect of Andrews' decision to cancel the visa means that Dr Haneef must now be taken into immigration detention, but obviously he has no chance of receiving a new visa, and he is prevented from leaving the country. The result is that Kevin Andrews has just trumped the grant of bail by using the Migration Act as an alternative means of gaoling a person accused of a crime.
What Mr Andrews has done is an unprincipled misuse of the Migration Act. He took no steps to cancel Dr Haneef's visa until a magistrate granted Haneef bail. Under the Migration Act, there is no limit to the time a person may remain in detention. A decision of the High Court means that he could be held in detention for life. If the prosecution drag their feet, Dr Haneef could be in detention for years, even though a magistrate thought he should be released on bail.
The question now for Mr Andrews is this: if Dr Haneef is not committed for trial, or if he is tried and acquitted, will he be given a new visa? If so, then what is the reason for cancelling his original visa? If not, then Dr Haneef will be removed from Australia, an innocent man, after having been locked up for months or years because someone thought, incorrectly, that he had committed an offence.