Despite an Immigration Assessment Authority decision to deport the woman’s parents and brother, the Federal Court has ruled the trio should have their application for asylum reviewed.
The authority, established by Tony Abbott’s coalition government nearly a decade ago, is tasked with reviewing fast-track decisions to refuse protection visas by the federal immigration minister.
The woman entered into an arranged marriage aged 17 but was abused by her husband and rekindled a relationship with a former boyfriend.
Her husband, whose family is connected to Iran’s powerful and shadowy Revolutionary Guard, reported the pair to the police and the woman was charged with adultery, an offence punishable by death.
Family members negotiated her release on condition she returned to her husband, who then threatened to kill her for dishonouring him.
Upon release, she escaped with her parents and brother to Australia.
The woman managed to secure a safe haven visa but not her family, with minister David Coleman deciding he wasn’t satisfied they were at any risk of harm should they return to Iran.
However, Federal Court Judge Tony Young found the applicants were “deprived of the chance of a successful outcome”.
Specifically, he said the delegate representing the minister failed to provide a marriage certificate to the authority, which rejected the applicants’ claims that they would also be at risk if deported since her husband was well-connected to the Iranian regime.
The conservative republic’s targeting of women has surged in recent years prompting uprisings that resonated internationally with protests, including in Australia, last year following the custody death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini.
The Immigration Assessment Authority handed down its decision in March 2019, affirming Mr Coleman’s initial determination in December 2018.
Analysis by the Refugee Council of Australia shows more than 80 per cent of applicants from Iran succeeded in being granted protection visas under a previous refugee tribunal system from 2009 to 2013, before the authority was tasked with assessing applications.
That figure has since plummeted to 16 per cent.
According to the research, Federal Court appeals data between 2018 and 2021 shows nearly 40 per cent of cases were deemed to have been unlawfully decided.
Asher Hirsch, a legal officer who co-authored the council’s report, believes the authority suffers from inherent administrative blind-spots that are picked up by the courts at times.
But Dr Hirsch said the authority’s major flaw was its arbitrariness stemming from unfairness.
“The system is not fair as applicants don’t get heard,” he told AAP.
“It’s all on the papers and they don’t get to provide new information that would help the decision-maker to understand the full story.”
Dr Hirsch highlighted the absence of oral hearings as a factor contributing to outcomes that were, at best, confusing.
“We’re very concerned that a number people with strong claims for fearing persecution in their country of origin are being refused protection but are indeed refugees,” he said.
Despite the gravity of the situations involved, neither is the process a timely one.
“Nine years to process 30,000 people shows it has been a very slow process instead and unfair one,” Dr Hirsch said.
In the lead up to last year’s federal election, Labor pledged to abolish the Immigration Assessment Authority but is yet to.