A table on ASIO’s passport confiscation powers

One power often used by ASIO after 9/11 was its ability to cancel passports to prevent suspected terrorists from travelling overseas. Technically DFAT withdraws the passports, but as a result of adverse ASIO assessments.

Unlike ASIO’s coercive questioning powers or its ability to issue adverse assessments for visa applications (resulting in the indefinite detention of over fifty refugees), very little has been written about its passport-confiscation powers.

Here is a rough table of how many Australian-passport holders have had their passports confiscated, or returned, each year as a result of ASIO security assessments.

This table presents the figures as best as I can ascertain, and I have placed question marks against any numbers in the table that do not come directly from an ASIO annual report. Unlike its coercive questioning powers, there is no mandatory requirement that ASIO report when it issues security assessments for passports, so the available information is fragmentary. The sources are listed in detail at the bottom of the post.

Year Number of passports confiscated Number of passports returned
2015-2016 62 (over 275 in total?) ?
2014-2015 93 (over 213 by this point?) ?
2013-2014 45 (over 120 by this point?) ?
2012-2013 18 (over 75 by this point?) ?
2011-2012 7 (over 57 by this point?) ?
2010-2011 7 (over 50 by this point?) 1 (maybe 3?)
2009-2010 8 10
2008-2009 ? ?
2007-2008 2 ?
2006-2007 ? ?
2005-2006 8 ?
2004-2005 13? (total 33 by this point) ?
2003-2004 6 (total 20 by this point) ?
2002-2003 ? ?
2001-2002 ? ?

Sources:

2015-2016 annual report

Adverse security assessments issued for 62 passports (P.52).

2014-2015 annual report

Adverse security assessments issued for 93 passports (P.22).

2013-2014 annual report

Adverse security assessments issued for 45 passports (P.iii).

2012-2013 annual report:

Adverse security assessments issued for 18 passports (P.16).

2011-2012 annual report:

No information about passports in the annual report, but the last INSLM report says 7 were cancelled during this period.

2010-2011 annual report:

Adverse security assessments issued for seven passports (P.24).

Three were subject to new assessments (P.25).

One was Mamdouh Habib, who was issued a non-adverse assessment on May 2011 (P.31).

According to this article, over 50 were confiscated by this point.

2009-2010 annual report:

Adverse security assessments for eight passports (P.22) (See also p.24 of 2010-11).

10 people were issued non-adverse assessments and had their passport rights renewed (P.23).

2008-2009 annual report:

No mention of passports.

2007-2008 annual report:

Adverse security assessments issued for two passports (P.19).

2006-2007 annual report:

No mention of passports.

2005-2006 annual report:

Adverse security assessments issued for eight passports (P.4).

By end of reporting period, 14 people were having their passport refusal reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (P.31).

2004-2005 annual report:

No mention of the number of passport refusals for the year. But it was probably 12 or 13 (see below)

Total 32 adverse security assessments for passports between November 2001 and June 2005 (P.3).

One was Mamdouh Habib, on 25 January 2005 (P.19).

33 adverse assessments had been issued in total, but ASIO withdrew one (P.21).

By end of reporting period, eight people were having their passport refusal reviewed by Administrative Appeals Tribunal (P.21).

2003-2004 annual report:

Adverse security assessments issued for six passports (P.3).

Total of 20 passport refusals since November 2001 (P.3).

Bilal Khazaal’s passport cancelled on 1 February 2002 (P.18).

Maher Khazaal’s passport cancelled on 23 December 2003 (P.18).

2002-2003 annual report:

No mention of passports.

2001-2002 annual report:

No mention of passports.

Update 1:  I initially wrote that ASIO’s power to cancel a passport was introduced after 9/11. I was mistaken, according the this book the power existed long before 9/11, but was rarely used. On 5 December 2013 I changed the text to reflect this.

Update 2: This transcript from the Security Appeals Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal provides some insight into the decision-making involved when ASIO cancels a passport, and of the appeals process. Added on 5 December 2013.

Update 3: Added data for 2013-2014 on 13 November 2014. Also fixed up the data for 2011-2012 based on the last INSLM report, which then required adjusting the “total __ by this point?” numbers.

Update 4: Added data for 2014-2015 on 29 October 2015.

Update 5: Added data for 2015-2016 on 15 October 2016.

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