Man fights for release from wrongful detention in Oz facility after authorities admit fault

Bernard Lee had been living and working in Australia legally for the past seven years and applied for residency. Photo / Facebook
Bernard Lee had been living and working in Australia legally for the past seven years and applied for residency. Photo / Facebook

Irish man Bernard Lee, 26, had been living and working legally in Western Australia for the past seven years. This week he was arrested by armed police and immigration officers at the home he shares with his partner in Highgate, Perth.

Authorities claimed that he had been issued a letter refusing his application for a resident's visa and cancelling his current business visa, and that he was in breach of the 20-day period to leave the country.

Both Lee and his lawyer maintain he never recieved such a letter and officers at detention centre run by the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). However, officers for the DIBP have admitted to Mr Lee's family they made a mistake and that no such letter was ever issued to Bernard or his lawyer. However, they have not committed to any intention of releasing him.

The man's family have said that an appeal process against the wrongful detention could take weeks or months, and are pleading with Australian officials to release him.

"Bernard does not want to appeal the decision of the Department of Immigration and Border Control because we have been advised that such appeals take months or years, during which time the person is kept in detention. He just wants to come home on the flight he booked for next week," Bernard's father Norman told the Irish Independent.

"We have been advised that the Australian Immigration authorities regularly detain people in this facility for months without reason while they process paperwork," said his brother Robert.

Ironically, Bernard had booked a flight out of Australia for next Wednesday to join his Australian girlfriend in Europe, where they plan to celebrate his brother's engagement with his family in Ireland. It is unlikely that Bernard will be allowed to take his flight out of Australia and will instead be incarcerated for weeks or months.

The detention centre, Yongah Hill in Northam in Western Australia, is composed of four compounds.

It made international news last September when a 40 year old man doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire, after being held there for about eight months.
A 27-year-old detainee had also died there shortly beforehand, after being held for three years.

- NZ Herald

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