1 Feb 2007

Australian government defends about face in security assessment of Iraqi refugee

2:48 pm on 1 February 2007

The new Australian immigration minister, Kevin Andrews, has defended the government's handling of a security assessment which kept an Iraqi man in detention on Nauru for five years.

Muhammad Faisal was released by authorities yesterday after the Australia spy agency ASIO reversed its original adverse security assessment of him.

Mr Faisal had been transferred from Nauru to a psychiatric facility in Brisbane late last year because of concerns about his mental health.

The decision leaves only one man in immigration detention on Nauru, Iraqi Mohammad Sagar, who had also been given an adverse security assessment by ASIO.

Both men had been granted refugee status more than a year ago.

The men's lawyer, Julian Burnside QC, has blasted ASIO, calling for a public explanation of its backflip.

Mr Andrews says due process was followed and that the assessment process was not unnecessarily long.

He told Australian radio that they have to be assured people coming to Australia are of good character and they're not a risk to national security.

Sweden recently formally accepted Mr Sagar as a refugee and he is expected to leave Nauru soon.