ASIO silent on why teen refugee is being held

A BID to release a teenage refugee labelled a ''security risk'' by ASIO from indefinite detention will go to trial in the Federal Court on January 23, but the Commonwealth is refusing to divulge to the court the nature of the findings against Ali Abbas.

ASIO is not subject to judicial review, and Mr Abbas has been issued a letter stating he has no appeal rights because he has been deemed an ''adverse security risk'' by the intelligence agency.

At a directions hearing this week, Commonwealth lawyers said they had no intention of releasing any information about the ASIO security assessment of the 18-year-old during the trial. His lawyers at Slater & Gordon haven't been told why Mr Abbas, a Bedouin from Kuwait who arrived in Australia by boat aged 16, has been blocked from a permanent visa, despite his refugee status.

The judge issued orders last month urging the Immigration Department to move Mr Abbas from an immigration detention centre in Melbourne into ''a supportive residential or family-based environment'' after hearing medical evidence of his repeated suicide attempts.

But Mr Abbas, who has been in detention for more than a year, hasn't been moved, and the Commonwealth has questioned whether the Federal Court has the power to make such orders. Slater & Gordon is pursuing the case despite the ASIO Act's exemptions, arguing the Commonwealth, and not ASIO, has control of the conditions of Mr Abbas's detention.

A verdict will have implications for the 54 recognised refugees, including family groups, being held in indefinite immigration detention because of ASIO security blocks.

The federal government has been unable to find a third country to accept the mostly Sri Lankan and Burmese refugees, and cannot return them to the country from which they fled because this breaches the United Nations Refugee Convention.