Asylum seekers take government to court over data breach

Asylum seekers from all over Australia are lodging legal claims against the federal government for leaking the details of nearly 10,000 asylum seekers in the country.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The asylum seekers that were caught up in the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection's data breach ordeal in February are now taking legal action against the federal government, The Guardian first reported.

The department had accidentally published the full names, nationalities, locations, arrival dates, and boat arrival information of nearly 10,000 asylum seekers on its website.

According to the news report, a total of 90 applications have so far been lodged to the federal circuit court. Asylum seekers in New South Wales, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory are claiming that the breach has exposed them to persecution from authorities in their home countries, and therefore they are entitled to automatic protection.

There are also claims that more than 50 asylum seekers in Villawood detention centre in Western Sydney were allegedly intimidated by Immigration Department staff over the weekend to sign a statutory declaration. The signed documents would effectively excuse the department from any responsibilities for any harm that is inflicted on the asylum seekers, as a result of the data breach, if they were deported to their home country.

One Villawood detainee's letter wrote: "Numerous vulnerable of us [sic] were called to immigration interview rooms at Villawood IDC to sign consents to authorise DIBP [Department of Immigration and Border Protection] to release our personal and confidential information to public."

But a spokesperson for Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison has denied these actions, and said in a statement: "There has been no attempt to seek permission from asylum seekers to release their private details publicly.

"I am advised that the department is putting in place arrangements to notify those who may have been affected by the data breach.

"All staff working in detention facilities are required to act with professionalism when dealing with asylum seekers."

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