Home Secretary Peter Dutton is being asked to fund a senior lawyer for an asylum seeker whose trial could result in the release of more than 100 other people detained under medical evacuation laws.
The federal court’s full bank on Friday ordered Dutton’s lawyers to seek ministerial approval to fund the lawyer for Iranian asylum seeker DXT20.
Judge John Griffiths said that since the case could affect about 100 other matters involving asylum seekers and refugees detained under medevac laws, it was “highly desirable” to keep a senior lawyer.
The motion was made in the interests of ensuring justice for DXT20 and beyond, the judge said. Griffiths noted that other cases had been delayed pending the outcome of DXT20’s appeal against a December ruling in federal court.
He hoped the inquiry to Dutton and other matters – which led to the case being adjourned on Friday – could be resolved quickly. “For obvious reasons, it is important that this case be heard sooner rather than later,” said the judge.
DXT20 is currently represented pro bono by lawyers and migration agents Daniel Taylor and Noeline Harendran from Sydney.
The legal counsel petition, if Dutton agrees, would allow funding for a senior lawyer to assist him. Publicly funded legal aid for people coming to Australia without a visa was cut in 2014.
The man argues that his detention is illegal under the repealed Medevac laws for not receiving the medical treatment that was the basis for his detention.
He came to Australia from Papua New Guinea in July 2019 after the Independent Health Advisory Panel found his mental health condition to require medical treatment. The man says his detention in Australia made his condition far from treatment, made his condition worse.
A hospital release summary in May, presented to the court during an earlier hearing, revealed that he was suffering from severe psychotic depression and had a history of trauma. He also had back pain and occipital lymphoma, the abstract said.
He was concerned about the interest in the man’s case in the “aggravated detention environment,” said Taylor, especially given that it is of significant concern to other refugees.
“I’m not saying at all that the court did anything wrong. I’m just saying that is exactly what is happening,” he said.
DXT20 did not join the video hearing from detention on Friday. Judge Melissa Perry indicated that any evidence he might produce at a future hearing could be presented in a closed court.
She also pointed out that given that DXT20’s application for a visa remained open within the department, this could potentially be resolved before the next court hearing – an opportunity leading to the conclusion of the matter and the broader issue of legal status would result from Medevac asylum seekers and refugees who remain unsolved.
Others detained under medevac laws in Australia have been granted visas within days of filing legal proceedings, lawyers told Guardian Australia.
The case of DXT20 has been postponed to a date yet to be determined.