‘Missing’ man who left immigration detention without electronic monitoring is located

<span>Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP</span>
Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Law enforcement agencies have located a man who was able to leave immigration detention without electronic monitoring because Australian Border Force failed to read out visa conditions to him.

The ABF has insisted the individual and three others have not complied with visa conditions but it also refuses to say if those conditions were read to the missing man.

In response to questions on Radio National on Wednesday morning, the home affairs minister Claire O’Neil said repeatedly these were “operational questions for the agencies”.

On Monday the ABF commissioner, Michael Outram, referred to four instances of alleged “non-compliance” with strict new electronic monitoring conditions for people released after a high court ruling on indefinite immigration detention.

Outram said three of the four had been contacted by Australian federal police and “we know where they are”, while attempts were still being made to contact the fourth individual.

Guardian Australia understands that the one that got away left the Melbourne immigration detention centre in Broadmeadows on 23 November immediately after he was told of his release.

It is understood the man was not verbally briefed on the conditions of his bridging visa and the ABF did not fit him with an ankle bracelet as it was required to do – unless the immigration minister granted an exemption. Mandatory conditions also include an obligation to regularly report to authorities.

He left without attending a status resolution support interview, at which the ABF usually asks where the released person intends to live.

The ABF and AFP are unsure where he is because he is not using government-provided accommodation. A letter including his visa conditions has been emailed to him.

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An ABF spokesperson declined to respond to questions about whether the man had visa conditions read to him on his release, saying: “It would not be appropriate for the ABF to comment on measures taken for specific individuals.”

The spokesperson said: “There are a small number of active referrals with the AFP in relation to the NZYQ cohort.

“As you would be aware, the ABF is unable to provide any comment in relation to these matters as it may undermine the integrity of ongoing investigations.”

O’Neil said the case was “a police matter now”. But Guardian Australia understands the AFP’s role is only in trying to find him.

“I just want to say that the Australian federal police and Australian border force have done an exceptional job,” O’Neil told ABC News Breakfast. “I will leave [it to] the police to report back.”

O’Neil was then asked four times on Radio National if ABF had failed to read visa conditions to one of the people released. O’Neil declined to answer “operational” questions.

“I have great confidence in the work they do – they will resolve these issues over time,” she said.

On Wednesday the opposition targeted Labor in lower house and Senate question time over the man’s disappearance.

The Labor leader in the Senate, Penny Wong deflected questions by saying she was “somewhat bemused that the opposition is criticising Border Force”.

Guardian Australia understands agencies have now found the former detainee who is complying with visa conditions.

Outram said on Monday that “in terms of the scale of offending all I’ll say is that they [four] are at the lower end of risk to the community”.

The high court ruled this month that indefinite immigration detention was unlawful when there was no real prospect of deporting the non-citizen in the reasonably foreseeable future.

The decision has resulted in the release of 141 people. The court’s reasons were published on Tuesday afternoon, endorsing the possibility of re-detaining people convicted of serious crimes under a preventive detention regime.

The Albanese government immediately committed to introduce such a scheme, before parliament rises at the end of next week. A second emergency bill to respond to the decision was introduced by the immigration minister, Andrew Giles, on Monday.

The bill proposes to give law enforcement officers the power to do “all things necessary or convenient” to determine the location of people released from detention or who were subject to electronic monitoring.

The Coalition voted against the bill, with the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, citing Labor’s refusal to include a preventive detention regime.

Earlier on Tuesday the shadow home affairs minister, James Paterson, told 3AW radio the person had “absconded in the community and we have no idea where they are”.

“They should explore all lawful options, including naming this person publicly to help us identify them.”

The AFP declined to comment.