17 Sep 2011

Further High Court immigration challenge planned

9:09 pm on 17 September 2011

A group of legal-aid lawyers in Australia is preparing another possible High Court challenge to immigration rules.

Legal-aid lawyers in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are all watching a case which is soon to be heard by the Victorian Court of Appeal.

The ABC reports they are cooperating in a landmark case which could free about 350 accused people-smugglers who face mandatory prison sentences.

Lawyer Saul Holt of Victoria, who is representing 53 men accused of people-smuggling, says the case is likely to end up in the High Court.

Central to his team's argument is that if it is legal for prospective refugees to claim asylum in Australia, then it should be legal for people to bring them here.

''This is a question of law, not a question of politics,'' he says. ''We represent 53 young fishermen from coastal Indonesian villages who were recruited as crew onto these boats.

''These are not what the public would often think of as being the organisers of people-smuggling rings. These men are just as much a part of the people-smugglers' business model as any other part of this operation is.

"None of the actual people-smugglers are silly enough to find themselves in Australia, subject to minimum mandatory sentences of three and five years' imprisonment. So this is really a question of law."