A fourth former immigration detainee has been charged after being released due to the NZYQ high court ruling.
A 45-year-old Sudanese-born man was arrested for allegedly failing to comply with a curfew and stealing luggage at an airport, Australian federal police (AFP) said on Wednesday afternoon.
“It will be alleged the man breached conditions of his commonwealth visa on 1 December 2023 by failing to observe his residential curfew obligations,” the AFP said in a statement.
“It is also alleged the man went to Melbourne airport, where he stole luggage from a traveller who was asleep in the terminal.”
The man has been charged with one count of theft, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and one count of failing to comply with a curfew, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $93,900 fine.
The man was released following last month’s NZYQ high court decision, in which the court ruled that indefinite immigration detention is unlawful where it is not possible to deport the non-citizen. The decision has resulted in the release of 148 people.
Speaking earlier on Wednesday, the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, the minister for immigration, Andrew Giles, and the minister for home affairs, Clare O’Neil, refused to answer whether any further arrests had been made since detainees were released.
“These are of course operational questions, and I imagine the ABF [Australian Border Force] or Operation Aegis can provide you with those informations,” Giles said.
“What we are working on … is to make sure we leave no stone unturned in managing this cohort.”
The opposition leader in the Senate, Simon Birmingham, said it would have been “far preferable” for the federal government to be upfront about further arrests.
Speaking on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Birmingham said it would have been “even more preferable for them to be prepared to actually respond to the high court case which they weren’t prepared for in the first place”.
“It would be better for them to be capable of having a consistent response throughout this,” he said.
Three other former detainees have been arrested across New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria in the past week for alleged offending.
Victoria police confirmed that a 33-year-old man, who was a registered sex offender, was arrested in Dandenong on Tuesday after allegedly breaching his reporting obligations. The man faced Dandenong magistrates court on Tuesday afternoon.
The arrest unleashed a political firestorm in Senate question time, where the shadow attorney general, Michaelia Cash, said the “ringleader of a child exploitation gang” had allegedly breached conditions.
The Labor leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, said the government had no alternative but to release people because it was “not open to [it] to instruct public servants to act unlawfully”.
Wong criticised the Coalition for voting with the Greens against a second bill to add stricter conditions on the visas of those released due to the NZYQ decision, and failing to confirm if it would vote for Labor’s preventive detention regime. The bill will go to the house on Wednesday evening.