Security risks stranded overseas after residency visas cancelled
Immigration officials have begun quietly cancelling the permanent residency visas of people deemed to be national security risks while they’re offshore, stranding them overseas and effectively ensuring they can’t come back to Australia.
In a strategy identical to the one employed to great effect against bikie bosses, a small number of suspected jihadists who don’t hold Australian citizenship have been kicked out of the country after their residency credentials were yanked by Immigration bosses. The Australian understands a small number of permanent residents — fewer than 10 — have been subject to the sanction, which is part of a more aggressive posture adopted by Immigration officials towards people deemed by ASIO to pose a security risk.
While it has long been common knowledge that the foreign minister can, and very often does, cancel the passports of Australian citizens, either to prevent them travelling to Syria or returning home, less well known is that similar measures are also being applied to permanent residents.
For years, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has been targeting organised crime figures with visa cancellation. As of August, Mr Dutton had cancelled the visas of 147 senior bikies — part of a larger strategy of disruption aimed at organised criminals and other undesirables.
All told, Mr Dutton had cancelled the visas of more than 2800 drug dealers, sex offenders, organised criminals and national security threats. Not all were overseas and many were reportedly appealing their deportation orders.
The process is driven in part by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, which provides a list of potential targets to authorities drawn from its extensive intelligence holdings.
Since January 2014, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has cancelled 210 passports, almost all belonging to suspected jihadists either in Syria or planning to fight. Another 39 passports have been suspended under tough new laws that put a lightning-fast stop on a passport belonging to someone suspected of travelling to a foreign conflict zone.
In recent years, the number of passport cancellations has tapered off, thanks to tougher border security measures and the fading fortunes of Islamic State, which is facing the looming collapse of its self-declared “caliphate’’ in Syria and northern Iraq.
The policy, while highly successful, has not been without controversy, mainly because it grounds would-be jihadists in Australia, increasing the risk they will attack their own communities.
Unlike Australian citizens, who can return home on one-way travel documents once their passports have been taken, permanent residents cannot come home.
Immigration and Border Security declined to provide details or figures on the policy. “The department works with our law enforcement and intelligence partners to cancel the visas of non-citizens who are a risk to Australia’s national security,’’ a spokesman said. “This applies whether they are onshore or offshore.”