by Medindia Content Team on  July 17, 2007 at 1:20 PM General Health News
‘Character’  Test for Australian Visa Subjective
Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef continues to be in detention, despite a bail order by a Brisbane court and his visa has been revoked on grounds of national interest.

But strangely the Australian government has not moved against Oday Adnan Al Tekriti, 38, a cousin and bodyguard to Saddam Hussein, who holds a temporary protection visa until 2008.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal had cleared Tekriti of criminal activity or human rights abuses that would have prohibited him from being granted a visa.

Such is the fickleness of the authorities or the utter subjectivity of the 'character' test invoked in denying Haneef freedom, it is pointed out.

The government is indeed demanding much more detailed information about political associations and family connections from immigrants.

For the first time the document, "Personal particulars for character assessment" (Form 80), which applicants for permanent and temporary protection visas must complete, singles out people of Arabic descent.

It also asks questions about the applicant's brothers and sisters - previously it was only parents and spouse - and about involvement in people smuggling, acts of violence and development of weapons of mass destruction.

The form, which used to cover two pages but now takes six, states: "If you are of Arabic descent, write the full name of your paternal grandfather."

A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department said: "The contents of the form are what our security agencies advise us to have; the rationale is not questioned because it is advice from our security agencies."

Haneef, who has been linked through a cousin to the Glasgow bombing, will be deported after he has faced the terrorism-related charge under the Migration Act, because the minister has concluded he failed the character test.

His 457 visa was cancelled Monday and that means immediate detention. He can be charged at more than $100 a day for his Villawood stay if the Government chooses to pursue costs.

The minister draws his powers from Section 501 of the Migration Act, which deals with refusal or cancellation of visas on character grounds.

"Section 501 of the act is amenable to broad discretions and it depends on political will of the day as to how they are exercised," said Ray Turner, a specialist in immigration law.

"[When] the current Government came to power and Philip Ruddock became immigration minister, the character test became the important aspect of immigration law it is now."

When Haneef applied to work in Australia last year as a temporary resident, he did not have to fill in the character disclosure form. As an Indian national, he may have been asked for details about his employer sponsor, but immigration lawyers say the checks are cursory.

Meanwhile Haneef's lawyers have said he will appeal the Australian government's decision to revoke his visa, as experts believe that the move to invoke immigration laws to continue detaining him can be challenged on grounds of "bias" and "irrelevant considerations."

Lawyer Peter Russo said, "We have examined the minister's decision and believe it is reviewable through an application to the federal court, which can be considered on a limited basis."

"The only association identified by the Federal police, as part of their criminal allegation, is the giving of a SIM card. The highest the allegations put was that he was reckless in that respect," Russo noted.

The appeal will be filed in Brisbane.

"We are very concerned at the minister's actions. It is as if the Commonwealth put everything they had before the umpire and then, not liking her decision, took the game into their own hands," Russo lamented.

Human rights lawyer Greg Barns, a former adviser to the government, said the decision to revoke Haneef's visa "looks bad."

"Andrews' decision can be challenged on the grounds of bias or taking into account irrelevant considerations in making his decision -- this includes political considerations," he said.

Barns said he doubted Andrews' decision to cancel the visa could be considered "reasonable" -- the terminology required under the Migration Act.

"It looks as though the commonwealth has sought to get around their failure in Brisbane this morning to stop Haneef from getting bail, by using the Migration Act to achieve this end," he said.

"Andrews could have made a decision on Haneef when he was charged over the weekend - why wait until now?" he said.

"It is doubtful that Andrews' decision is reasonable as he suggests, given the weakness of the case against Haneef and that he is an innocent man," he said.

Senior University of New South Wales constitutional law lecturer Andrew Lynch also predicted Haneef would have a case to appeal against the decision.

He doubted the government was basing its decision on any extra information, saying police would have used all the evidence in their unsuccessful application for Haneef's bail to be refused.

The decision to cancel Haneef's visa seemed to be based on him being a relative of men implicated in the UK terrorism attacks, which was "unsatisfactory," he said.

And he rejected Andrews' assertions that the decision to cancel his visa was not prejudging Haneef's guilt or innocence.

"He's saying that Haneef's visa's cancelled because he's caught up in this, whereas the bail was granted because of a judicial finding that it wasn't," Lynch told Sky News.

However another newspaper has reported that Haneef had been in frequent and extensive contact with two men at the centre of Britain's car-bomb plot on the eve of their failed terror attacks.

The online communication between Haneef and the bomb plotters was prolific and that authorities have gathered significantly more evidence against him than that has been disclosed publicly, The Australian said.

Authorities believe Haneef's attempted hasty exit from Australia on July 2 was directly linked to the arrest of his cousin Kafeel Ahmed, who suffered 90 per cent burns after the failed Glasgow airport attack on June 30.

Computer records obtained by authorities reveal Haneef's close links to both Kafeel and his brother Sabeel continued right up until the failed bombings in Glasgow and in London's West End on June 29, it said.

They also garnered evidence that Haneef's attempt two weeks ago to leave Australia for India on a one-way ticket after the terror attacks in Britain was not linked to family issues, as his relatives have claimed.

In his message sent to a relative in Bangalore hours before he tried to leave the country, Haneef made no mention of wanting to leave Australia to visit his baby, born in Bangalore on June 27, or for other family reasons.

This is supported by testimony given to authorities by Haneef's colleagues at Gold Coast Hospital. They said Haneef had made no mention of his planned trip to India, and had commented often about how well it worked to have his family living in India while he was working in Queensland.

Source: Medindia

Most Popular on Medindia