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Thematic Issue: Vulnerability and the Law

Protecting Vulnerable Refugees: Procedural Fairness in the Australian Fast Track Regime


Emily McDonald and Maria O'Sullivan

Refugee Status Determination is a powerful example of the way in which vulnerability and the law interact. This article examines this interaction by analysing a case study: the special protection visa application procedure in place for certain asylum seekers in Australia (the ‘Fast Track Assessment’ process) and the implications of this for procedural fairness. We conclude that the current legislative framework for the Fast Track Assessment process operates to exacerbate the circumstances of vulnerability of asylum seekers. Efficiency measures are an important way of avoiding delays in decision-making. However it also increases the propensity of such measures to lead to serious legal errors. Considering the serious consequences of an improperly made decision in this context, we argue that high standards of procedural fairness and an oral hearing are required. The article also demonstrates that a central purpose of due process should be to mitigate (rather than exacerbate) circumstances of vulnerability or marginalisation.

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(2018) 41(3) UNSWLJ 1003: