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The Department of Immigration has conceded that details of thousands of asylum seekers held in Australia were inadvertently made accessible online.
A report in Guardian Australia on Wednesday said that the personal details of a third of asylum seekers held in Australia – making up about 10,000 people – were released by Immigration in a serious breach of privacy.
The department was alerted to the breach and pulled the data down.
The information included all asylum seekers held in a mainland detention facilities, on Christmas Island and several thousand in community detention. Children were also included.
Despite the federal government’s insistence about the need for greater secrecy when it comes to immigration and border protection, the report said that a database containing the full names, nationalities, location, arrival date and boat arrival information was revealed on the department’s website.
On Wednesday, in response to questions about the breach, a spokeswoman from the Department of Immigration, said ”this information was never intended to be in the public domain”.
”The department acknowledges that the file was vulnerable to unauthorised access. The file has been removed and the department is investigating how this occurred to ensure that it does not happen again,” she said.
Fairfax Media has also contacted Immigration Minister Scott Morrison for comment.
Guardian Australia has not identified where the database was located online and said it told the department about the information before it reported the breach.
Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning said the release of asylum seekers’ information was “outrageous” and unprecedented.
“We are deeply disturbed by this,” he told Fairfax Media.
Mr Glendenning said the breach ran the risk of exposing people who were already vulnerable to “very serious danger”.
This not only included reprisals if asylum seekers were sent back to their country of origin, but their families – either in home countries, or transit countries in between.
The Refugee Council is also seeking particular assurances about the safety of people in community detention who may have had their location revealed.
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