Written by News 1st
19 Feb, 2014 | 10:20 am
The personal details of a third of all asylum seekers held in Australia – almost 10,000 adults and children – have been inadvertently released by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in one of the most serious privacy breaches in Australia’s history.
A vast database containing the full names, nationalities, location, arrival date and boat arrival information was revealed on the department’s website, raising serious concerns that thousands of asylum seekers have had confidential details made public.
Every single person held in a mainland detention facility and on Christmas Island has been identified in the database, as well as several thousand who are living in the community under the community detention program. A large number of children have been identified in the release, which also lists whether asylum seekers are part of family groups.
The breach raises serious questions about whether those identified could be placed at risk of retribution if they are returned to their countries of origin.
The disclosure of the database is a major embarrassment for the federal government, which has adopted a policy of extreme secrecy on asylum-seeker issues.
The asylum seekers named, range in age from newborns to people over 80. They come from countries including Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iran and Syria and arrived in Australia as late as September. Some have been in detention for more than 1000 days.
The Department of Immigration has released a statement saying the information was never intended to be in the public domain.
“The department acknowledges that the file was vulnerable to unauthorised access. The department is investigating how this occurred to ensure that it does not happen again,” it said.
The department is also likely to have breached Australia’s privacy laws, which places limits on the disclosure of personal information held by government entities. The information privacy principles state that government agencies must ensure that records are protected “by such security safeguards as it is reasonable in the circumstances to take, against loss, against unauthorised access, use, modification or disclosure”.
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