Immigration Minister Peter Dutton with his department secretary Michael Pezzullo in Parliament House last month. Photo: Alex EllinghausenImmigration Minister Peter Dutton wrongly sent two Australian citizens to immigration detention, including one who was taken to Christmas Island,his department has confirmed.
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The two Australians, one of whom was originally a New Zealander, were taken to immigration detention following their release from prison after committing serious crimes.

One was taken to Christmas Island, while the other was detained onshore, the Immigration Department confirmed. It would not provide further information about the date, length or circumstances of their detention, or the second individual’s other nationality.

“Two individuals were detained after their visas were cancelled mandatorily under section 501 of the Migration Act 1958,” a department spokesman told Fairfax Media on Tuesday night.

“After it was identified that each individual held dual Australian citizenship, arrangements were immediately made for their release from immigration detention.

“The circumstances surrounding their detention have been reviewed and appropriate safeguards have been implemented.”

Under section 501 of the Migration Act, Mr Dutton must cancel a non-citizen’s visa if they are serving a full-time jail term of more than 12 months for an offence committed in Australia, or if they have been found guilty of a sexually-based crime involving a child.

It is understood the two cases were not related. It is possible they did not know, or did not recall, that they were Australiancitizens at the time of their imprisonment in immigration detention, and internal systems failed to detect their citizenship status.

The case hastinges of the wrongful imprisonment of Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon. Ms Solon, also an Australian citizen, was wrongly deported to the Philippines in 2001 because immigration officials believed she was an illegal immigrant. She was later compensated to the tune of $4.5 million.

George Newhouse, the principal lawyer in both those cases, told Fairfax Media this latest error was “the natural consequence of a power grab by a minister who does not want to be held accountable to anyone, and in particular the judges and tribunals”.

“This is what happens when you remove all judicial oversight from the executive government,” Mr Newhouse said.

“It appears that the minister is up to his neck in this debacle and he needs to take personal responsibility for his decision to falsely imprison two Australian citizens.”

“The minister had stated quite publicly he does not want to be constrained by judicial interference and false imprisonment is a direct result.”