SYDNEY Feb 19 Australia has inadvertently made
public the identities of almost 10,000 asylum seekers, the
department of immigration said on Wednesday, raising concerns it
could help locate people fleeing persecution and thus place them
in greater danger.
A file published on a government website by mistake held the
names, nationalities and locations of nearly a third of all
people held in Australia's immigration detention network. It is
unclear how long the information was available to the public.
The lapse was first reported by The Guardian Australia
website, which informed the government of the breach, leading it
to block access to the information.
"This information was never intended to be in the public
domain," an immigration department spokeswoman said.
"The file has been removed and the department is
investigating how this occurred to ensure that it does not
The incident comes as Prime Minister Tony Abbott's tough
stance on asylum seekers has been receiving fresh scrutiny after
a series of events, including violent riots, involving its
policy of transferring asylum seekers to third countries.
Australia uses detention centres in Papua New Guinea and on
the tiny Pacific island of Nauru to process would-be refugees
sent there after trying to get to Australia, often in unsafe
boats after paying people smugglers in Indonesia.
An asylum seeker was killed and at least 77 injured on
Monday in the second riot this week at the Papua New Guinea
facility on Manus island, leading to calls from critics for its
Britain's G4S, the world's biggest security group,
is responsible for providing security at the Manus Island
Australia's arrangement with tiny Nauru has also come under
fire in recent weeks following a series of moves by the
government there that critics call authoritarian and
Sarah Hanson-Young of the small but influential Greens Party
called the data breach, one of the largest in recent memory in
Australia, an example of the government's "failure to care for
vulnerable people who are fleeing for their lives".
"Thousands of refugees have had their private details
published online and the government must now take that into
account when considering their claims for protection," she said
in a statement.