Australia's head of immigration quits

11 July 2005

The head of Australia's Immigration Department has resigned, after the release of a report on cases of wrongful detention and deportation.

Prime Minister John Howard said he had accepted the resignation of secretary Bill Farmer, who will now become the country's next ambassador to Indonesia. Howard said he had appointed former immigration official Andrew Metcalfe as his replacement.

The investigation into 201 cases of possible wrongful detention and deportation was carried out by former police commissioner Mick Palmer. It highlighted mistakes which included the wrongful detention and deportation of two mentally-ill women.

"There have been mistakes made, and I'll have more to say about this, and plainly people who are Australian citizens should never be treated as if they weren't," Mr Howard said.

They included the wrongful detention of mentally ill German-born Australian woman Cornelia Rau, which Mr Palmer said had exacerbated her illness.

Lawyers for mentally ill Australian woman Vivian Alvarez have said that she had a partially severed spinal cord and had to sign her deportation papers with a thumbprint when she was wrongly sent back to the Philippines four years ago. Mr Farmer has apologised for failings by his department in some of the cases investigated by Mr Palmer.