Why High Court detainee lost visa

Clare O'Neil, Clare O'Neil, Andrew Giles PRESSER
149 people were released from immigration detention after the High Court ruled last year that indefinite immigration detention was unlawful. Picture: Martin Ollman/NCA NewsWire.

A former immigration detainee has been arrested and charged with breaching the conditions of his visa, which was revoked after he travelled home to Iraq to have a kidney transplant.

Nahi Al Sharify, 40, was arrested by the Australian Federal Police on Sunday after they requested he report to police in Sydney.

The Iraqi-born man was charged with allegedly failing to comply with his visa-mandated reporting conditions.

Nahi AL Sharify, a 40-year-old Iraqi man, was charged with breaching reporting conditions for his visa. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift
Nahi Al Sharify appeared before Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney on Monday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift

Dressed in a white T-shirt and black pants, Mr Al Sharify faced Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court from the cells of Surry Hills Police Station.

Defence lawyer Peter Berg said the breach related to Mr Al Sharify forgetting to report via telephone 43 times.

Mr Al Sharify is required to report via telephone daily.

He has never been convicted of any offence, the court was told, but had initially travelled to Australia on a humanitarian or protection visa.

The court heard Mr Al Sharify returned to Iraq to undergo a kidney transplant, prompting the Australian government to revoke the visa.

“That return to Iraq triggered the cancellation on the basis he no longer had a well-founded fear of persecution because he returned,” Mr Berg said.

The 40-year-old travelled back to Australia where he was taken into immigration detention for five years.

Nahi AL Sharify was one of the detainees released following the NZYQ High Court case. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift

Mr Al Sharify was released in November last year following the High Court’s landmark NZYQ case, which saw the release of 149 people from immigration detention when it ruled indefinite detention as unlawful.

He is one of more than two dozen former detainees to be criminally charged since the group were released.

The Iraqi-born man was fitted with an ankle bracelet for some time, but it was later taken off him, the court heard.

Since his release and under his new visa conditions, Mr Al Sharify was ordered to report to the status resolution officer at the Department of Home Affairs every day.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has stressed that former detainees were being monitored. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

However, there have allegedly been 43 occasions where he has not done so.

Mr Berg told the court his client should be released on bail as he is not a native English speaker and needs an interpreter, which is why he did not understand the reporting requirements.

The court was told Mr Al Sharify had two prior charges for intimidation in 2017 and 2018, but neither of them recorded criminal convictions. He was given a Conditional Release Order for both charges.

Mr Berg argued his client had reported to police when asked to do so, including when he was asked to front the AFP headquarters last week.

He urged Magistrate Clare Farnan to release his client on bail.

The magistrate said Mr Al Sharify had been given a number of warnings to conduct his daily reporting, with failing to comply with visa conditions carrying a maximum penalty of five years.

“Whilst I am not suggesting it is a trivial offence to not report to the telephone hotline, it is not something in my view which raises danger to the Australian community to justify refusing bail,” Ms Farnan said.

Mr Dutton accused Mr Giles of ignoring public safety. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Mr Al Sharify was granted bail on the condition he live in Parramatta, report to police once a week and abide by his visa reporting conditions.

“It is very important you report by telephone everyday as you are required to do, if you don’t then the police can arrest you again,” Ms Farnan warned.

“You understand that?”

Mr Al Sharify responded: “Yes, thank you”.

Mr Al Sharify will return to court in March. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift

The matter will return to court in March.

Facing a wave of renewed scrutiny over the government’s handling of the High Court’s ruling last week, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said the government was preparing applications to seek preventative detention orders to redetain those deemed a risk to community safety.

Documents tabled in Senate estimates last Monday revealed a breakdown of the crimes committed by individuals in the group - which included 7 murderers, 37 sex offenders and 72 convicted of violent offences such as assault, kidnapping or armed robbery.

kThere’s no suggestion Mr Al Sharify has ever committed any such offence.

Opposition Peter Dutton moved a motion during Question Time on Thursday to call for the Prime Minister to sack Mr Giles - which was later defeated.

“I move a motion that calls upon the Prime Minister to dismiss this incompetent minister who has proven entirely inadequate in keeping Australians safe,” Mr Dutton said at the time.

Mr Giles has repeatedly insisted that community safety was a key priority for the government arguing the government was fully aware of where the recently released detainees were.

“We’ve also put in place four layers of protection: preventive detention, community safety orders, electronic monitoring and curfews, as well as strict visa conditions,” he said last week.