Refugee's family reunion bid fails

THE High Court has dismissed a challenge by a teenage Afghan refugee whose bid to bring his mother and younger siblings to Melbourne was rejected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship because they were unable to get the consent of his father.

Justices French, Bell and Gageler upheld the decision by a department official to reject visa applications for the mother and four siblings in part because the teenager's father, who has been missing since 2003, had not given his consent.

The court ruled that the official's refusal of the visa was legally sound and not in breach of the rules of natural justice.

The official found that those who could lawfully determine where the children were to live included their father or, if he was dead, his relatives - and was not satisfied that any of them consented to the granting of the visas. The official had also ruled that the children's home country was Afghanistan and he, or she, was not satisfied that the law of that country permitted the removal of the children.

Lawyers for Javed Tahiri had argued that it had been difficult to secure approval from the father's relatives because his mother and four siblings had been forced to flee Afghanistan to Pakistan, where members of the Hazara ethnic minority continue live in fear of persecution.

They maintained the official should have considered Mr Tahiri's father was dead, and should have determined who could "lawfully decide" where the children should live in accordance with Australian law.

Mr Tahiri, 19, who was granted refugee status in 2009, is living in Dandenong and studying to be an accountant, but says he is consumed by concern about his mother and siblings, aged eight, 13, 16 and 17. ''It is hard to find meaning in my life when my family are not safe and are scared every day,'' he told Fairfax Media before the court's decision.

Victoria Legal Aid's Joel Townsend said he was disappointed by the court's decision because Mr Tahiri's family could not reapply for split family visas. Mr Tahiri could apply to bring his mother out as a parent, but the average waiting time for these visas is almost 20 years.

''Like any young person, Javed needs the support of his family and misses them dearly. He will be devastated by this decision. We are disappointed for Javed.''

Mr Townsend said research showed that reuniting young refugees with their families improved their health and their capacity to deal with the challenges they faced in making a life for themselves in Australia.

He said Legal Aid took on this case as part of its commitment to improving administrative decision-making in immigration.

This story Refugee's family reunion bid fails first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.