The High Court has ruled the immigration minister can’t arbitrarily limit the number of protection visas he issues each year.
The High Court has ruled that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison can’t impose a limit on how many refugee protection visas he can issue.
In a blow to the government’s tough stance on asylum seekers, High Court judges unanimously upheld challenges by a pair of asylum seekers who were determined by the Refugee Review Tribunal to be entitled to refugee protection.
But neither has been either granted or refused a protection visa.
In March, the minister signed a legal instrument saying a maximum of 2773 protection visas could be granted in the year to June 30.
That maximum having been reached, no new protection visas could be granted.
Asylum seekers who fell outside that quota, which was reached on March 24, 2014, were granted temporary safe haven visas but their primary applications remained undetermined.
The two legal challenges, on identical grounds, were mounted by a Pakistani national who arrived at Christmas Island by boat in May 2012 and an Ethiopian teenager who arrived at Gladstone as a stowaway aboard a cargo ship in March 2013.
Both applied for protection and the Refugee Review Tribunal found both to be refugees.
But both remained in limbo under the freeze on issuing protection visas, enacted by Mr Morrison on March 4.
The High Court judges said that if that freeze was valid, the pair could not be granted protection visas in this financial year.
However the judges said the section of the Migration Act under which the minister made this ruling was invalid.
Judges said that was plainly incompatible with other provisions requiring the minister to grant a visa within 90 days when there had been a valid application and all necessary conditions had been met.
Mr Morrison now has to make a decision on the two asylum seekers “according to law.”