Open Letter to ASIO


Ranjini and her boys

In May last year I wrote about Ranjini.  Ranjini is still being held in detention and is about to give birth to her third child. Ranjini may already be in labour as I write this. EditRanjini gave birth to a lovely baby boy January 15th!

I want to stress, this is NOT about the whole “detain without right of appeal” issue – this is JUST about Ranjini’s case. In THIS case, ASIO can take action.

Damian Spruce, refugee researcher, adviser and lawyer who teaches Law and Social Theory at the University of Sydney, says:

It sounds like a positive step to ask ASIO to review it voluntarily & could be quicker than waiting for the independent review.

For those wanting a detailed legal perspective of this case, I refer you to Julian Burnside’s excellent article “Jailed for life but not told why”, where he said:

They may remain in detention for years, perhaps forever. How can that be, in a free democratic country like Australia? It is the result of two court decisions which most Australians have never heard of.

First, if a person is adversely assessed by ASIO, they are not told what facts ASIO took into account in forming its views, so it is virtually impossible to show that ASIO was wrong.

David Manne launched a High Court challenge and it seems to have been a partial win which is absolutely terrific, because change will come. It doesn’t immediately assist Ranjini or her children.  The Government is also challenging the ruling of the court in relation to those who arrive by boat.

I like to keep things simple. It seems to me, a mere simple citizen, the simplest way to resolve the Ranjini situation is for ASIO to review the findings of the security assessment. We know Ranjini has no right of appeal; surely ASIO have the right to review their own findings. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees: we overcomplicate everything. Let’s take the simplest approach.

Advocacy organisations can only do so much – people power can achieve a lot if we act in concert.

I understand ASIO have a very important job in a world where there seems to be ever increasing instability. I also know that no-one on this planet is perfect and some decisions should be reviewed. On of the reasons I don’t support a death penalty is because mistakes can be made. Ranjini’s adverse security assessment is one decision many Australian’s feel very strongly about. Many people have written to various politicians and other organisations. Why not simply write to the organisation that undertook the assessment in the first place?

I urge all Australians to write to ASIO to express you concerns about the case. If I can, so can you.  Show ASIO it is not just the advocacy organisations that care, it is also the people of Australia. ASIO made the assessment, ASIO can review it. Copy in the Attorney-General’s department and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.  Links to contact details are given at the end of this article.

ASIO Central Office
GPO Box 2176

Dear Director-General,

I write to request you reconsider the security assessment of Ranjini.

Ranjini was granted refugee status pending the finalisation of the security checks. Those checks were undertaken by ASIO.

While the reasons for ASIO’s adverse findings have not been published, reliable sources have stated it is believed the reason for the adverse findings relate to Ranjini’s deceased husband being suspected of activity not considered appropriate.

I find this unconscionable for the following reasons.

  1. Ranjini’s marriage was possibly or probably arranged. This means she may have had little say, if any, in her choice of husband.  Has this aspect been considered?
  2. Ranjini comes from a culture where many wives still have little, if any, say in what their husbands do or don’t do.  Has this aspect been considered?
  3. Australia’s legal system is such that we would not hold a spouse responsible for the actions of the husband or wife unless the spouse is proven beyond reasonable doubt to be an accomplice, yet here we appear to be holding Ranjini responsible for actions she may have known nothing about and even if she had, she would most likely have been powerless to intervene.
  4. Ranjini has been found to be a genuine refugee by DIAC.

Furthermore, I question whether a husband, in similar circumstances, would be found to be a security risk by ASIO on the basis of the actions of a deceased wife.

Given information relating to the assessment is not available to the public, on the basis of what little information is circulating, the adverse findings appear to lack cultural mindfulness and seem, on the face of it, possibly sexist.

I think about Ranjini every day. What will happen to her? What will happen to her children if anything happens to her? How can we justify incarcerating her and her children? Is there any evidence against Ranjini personally that justifies this?

Ranjini is a woman in desperate circumstances, with the opportunity of a new life. A loving new husband who accepted her children as his own. Ranjini is about to give birth to an Australian citizen as a result of the marriage Australia gave her permission to enter into.  The child will, I believe, qualify for citizenship on the basis of the status of the father.

I request ASIO review the adverse findings immediately.

Yours sincerely

Robyn Oyeniyi


Contact Details:

ASIO:   http://www.asio.gov.au/Contact-Us.html

Attorney-General:   https://www.ag.gov.au/About/Pages/Contactus.aspx?s=1

DIAC:  http://www.immi.gov.au/contacts/australia/national-office.htm

Contacts of supporting organisations for Ranjini’s case:




Related Articles:

Family drama reveals detention contortions –  Fatima Measham

Baby born into immigration limbo – ABC News, Jeff Waters

Fear, refugees and Ranjini – please explain – Martin Hodgson

Baby boy for mom locked up as Australian security risk – CNN – Hilary Whiteman

Personal Note:

Sadly, when I speak out like this it still worries my husband. He worries about retaliation. He comes from a regime where speaking out such as I do is not always safe. I have faith in Australia and am very glad we live in a nation where we have the freedom to fight for what we believe is right. Let us ensure we use our freedom wisely. Let’s ensure we protect our freedom and our humanity.

21 comments on “Open Letter to ASIO

  1. […] watched us lock up Ranjini and her children, snatching her from the loving arms of her new husband with 5 minutes notice. […]


  2. […] week before, on January 10 I had written about Ranjini, encouraging people to write to ASIO directly. That article I did promote heavily myself and even […]


  3. […] Ranjini case is one where the Liberals seem to be awfully silent and they shouldn’t be. Their policies on […]


  4. Department of Immigration makes the decision as to what happens when someone gets an adverse assessement. Dept of Immigration could let her live in the community if they wanted to. Why not write to their Minister?


  5. I have a real problem with this. I have several actually. One of the many, major problems I have with this, setting aside for the moment the many major problems I have with refugee policy in general, is that it’s desperately unfair. We are saying to these people, “Yes, we accept your refugee status, but for ‘security’ reasons we’re still not letting you in. No, you can’t move on and apply somewhere else either, because we’re keeping you locked up. No, you can’t appeal either. Why are we doing all this? We’re not telling you.”

    Not only is this desperately unfair, it breaks every legal principle we claim to hold dear. I mean, habeas corpus anyone? It’s simply unconscionable, we are giving these people no human rights whatsoever. Are we going to keep them forever? You just don’t get the impression that the govt. has thought this through at all.

    Now some people will think hey, if ASIO think these people pose a risk to society, there must be something to it. But we know a bit about how ASIO think – not surprisingly, a bit like a bureaucracy. They have a list of terrorist organisations, which can be added to or subtracted from, from time to time, by the govt., making it a politicised list. And anyway, it’s just not that simple. Some of the organisations on the list, like HAMAS and the Tamil Tigers are, or have been, the de facto governments of territories. They do/did a lot more than just terrorism. If you were a Tamil living on the Jaffna Peninsula in the last 20 or 30 years, and you were any kind of public servant, teacher, garbo, etc, etc. then you were employed by the LTTE. They were the only game in town.

    The FOURTH major problem is this: We insist on seeing Sri Lanka as a liberal democracy like our own. It is not. It is, and has been for a long time, a racist state, like Israel or the old South Africa. Tamils do not enjoy equal rights there. That is why the overwhelming majority of them have always wanted an independent state. Their aspirations were crushed by the commission of a serious war crime. The Sri Lankan army herded them all, civilians and fighters alike, into a tiny area and shelled them, indiscriminately. The head of the Sri Lankan armed forces said as much when he resigned his commission and stood against the president. He was promptly arrested for his trouble. And we are helping these war criminals to catch people attempting to flee from them, and calling it a good result! Shame Australia, shame!

    Yes, the Tigers did commit terrorist acts. Or to be more precise, one faction of the LTTE, which was always a broad church, commited such acts, but the mainstream LTTE enjoyed broad support because they provided competent government, much as with HAMAS in the Gaza Strip. The list of proscribed organisations is too blunt an instrument to be of any use in dealing with individual cases like Ranjini’s. ASIO, time (as the Americans would say) to shit, or get off the pot. If you have cases against any of these people, bring them. Otherwise, LET THEM GO!


    • Thanks for the information Derek, very enlightening.

      As you say, ASIO is, apart from everything else it does, a bureaucracy. With policies and procedures and paperwork. Moreover, with a reluctance to ever admit maybe there has been a mistake or even that something may have been done slightly differently with a different result.

      For example, look at the letter I received from DIAC!!!

      The Department also acknowledges that different decision makers make take a different view of a matter and come to a different, yet equally valid, conclusion. Often the interpretation of facts will be finely balanced ..


      Now, that is a DIFFERENT department, admittedly, but I have to think such a situation would be even MORE likely in ASIO where sometimes facts are at a minimum and decision makers have to decide based on “gut feel” or “circumstantial evidence”. I recognise ASIO have a bloody hard job and probably get very little thanks for their efforts from the general public. Even so, that doesn’t mean they can’t re-assess an assessment when there is clearly a desire by the Australian public for that re-assessment to happen!


      • I will comment in detail on that article later, because it sounds absolutely wrong to me. These review bodies are quasi-judicial authorities, and it has always been the case under common law that if a decision is overturned on appeal, or by a higher judicial authority, then that most certainly DOES mean that the earlier decision was wrong. Our legal system allows no room for ‘gut feel,’ let alone circumstantial evidence.

        A last word on Sri Lanka – we seem to hear a lot, from the mainstream media, about how there is peace there now. Whenever I hear that I can’t help thinking of this quote:

        “They have created a desolation, and they have called it peace.”
        (Of the Romans, attributed to the Pictish leader Calgacus by the Roman historian Tacitus)


      • I do think in the case of national security, ASIO do have to err on the side of caution, if you like. Sometimes things aren’t as clear as they might be in other fields of assessment. HOWEVER, I do strongly believe in THIS particular case, there is room to review!

        As for the article relating to me – it seems it is what it is, as bad as that may be! I have to prove defective administration and of course no-one wants to to admit to defects, now do they? In my case there CLEARLY were defects, but even THAT assessment is subjective and so can be ignored!


      • National security is national security, but… I think we can safely assume that terrorists, organised terrorists who might actually be a threat, would never risk their lives and any operation they might be planning by getting in a leaky boat that might or might not arrive, to apply for a refugee status that might or might not be granted. They have cover IDs, wear nice suits and travel business class. If they’re not smart enough to know that, they’re not going to be much of a threat. Trust me on this Australia, where I come from we have a much longer experience of them than you do.

        On your other article, I’ll give you a comprehensive summary of how another public service department takes and reviews decisions. You may find it helpful, as they all have similar structures leading to the same point. Clearly some of them are a lot less open about it than others, but there will be a similar structure in there, open or not. They all operate under a federal Act, and are therefore ultimately subject to the Federal Court and the High Court. And if there’s one thing we know about how the courts operate it’s that ‘subjective’ is just another word for ‘inadmissable.’ The function of the internal review processes of the departments is to weed out and concede any case that they might lose if it got to court, thus not wasting taxpayers’ money on pointless cases.


      • That’s kind of been my thoughts over the years. I laughed when airlines allowed first class to keep real cutlery, when back in coach we had plastic as a new safety measure. Like “bad people” don’t fly first class for some reason!


  6. Obviously Australia is neither free nor democratic, unfortunately that goes for many countries these days. She must know something others are afraid will get out, sorry for her and her children.


    • We are reasonably sure that is NOT the case, PB. She is believed to know nothing, it is about actions of her deceased husband. Even if she had knowledge by virtue of being his wife, that does not make her guilty due to the other aspects of the situation as discussed above.

      Australia is certainly free and democratic, however some of our legislation could do to be tidied up a bit. This is one example.


  7. What a sad story and such a terrible reflection on where Australia has gone wrong lately…BTW [Jailed for life but not told why”] link is not working for me Robyn…


    • I don’t understand why the link isn’t working Jo. It works for me here. It is The Drum on the ABC so unless it works for Australia only, I can’t explain it. That is a pity, as it is a very interesting article, as Julian’s always are.


  8. Pls tell Mr O that while there are people like you to keep us informed, people like me will fight to ensure speaking up remains the right of all in Australia, that the only retaliation will be verbal disagreement. Can’t promise that it will be a civil discussion though, the ranters and ravers are amongst us too

    I’m very careful about which causes I support but this seems inhumane on so many levels, and a recipe for troubled kids. So count me in


    • Thank you Jan. Yes, I stick to just asylum seeker/refugee issues. Even then I do it with words as time is short for me.

      Verbal disagreement there will and should always be. If we lose that, we lose oir freedom.

      This is just wrong on so many levels, unless we have evidence presented to support detention. So far, we are not seeing any!


  9. Though I understand and accept your husband’s concern for your safety, I want to applaud your advocacy. It can take a great deal of protest and requests from unrelated citizens to irritate governments into correcting these kinds of injustices. You understood the meaning of Ranjini’s situation. How could you not take action to help?


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