Australia liable for compensation of Manus Island asylum seekers

Edited by Nelly Tawil

Hundreds-of-thousands of dollars will be sought from the Australian government in compensation after Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruled the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island were illegally imprisoned on Tuesday.

The Australian government was warned that recompense will be pursued by a lawyer representing the men on Manus Island and that they should be returned to Christmas Island.

Five judges also ruled that constitutional amendment made by the PNG government last year to legitimize the arrangement with the Australian government is also unconstitutional and invalid.

“Both the Australian and PNG governments shall forthwith take all steps necessary to cease and precent the continued unconstitutional and illegal detention of the asylum seekers,” the judgment says.

Ben Lomai the Port Moresby-0based lawyer for refugees and asylum seekers on Manus island said “My clients, there’s a big jubilation in the camp. Everyone is really happy, really happy.

“In the next couple of days we will be putting an application to the Supreme Court; one is for them to be released and then that the matter be progressed for compensation.

“The National Court has already settled (in previous cases) for breach of personal liberty. For example, they’ve already ordered 200 kina per day (A$82) and 100 Kina (A$41) for exemplary damages.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton insists Australia’s border protection policies will not change, and asylum seekers “whether they’re on Manus” or elsewhere “they will not be settled permanently in this country,” he said.

“We will not retreat from what has been a tough but fair policy.”

The decision strengthens claims that Australia breached its duty of care for detainees said the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

Greg Barns, alliance spokesman, says the ruling is consistent with international law, which states indefinite detention is unlawful.

“The ruling makes it highly likely that asylum seekers can successfully make claims for damages for false imprisonment from the time they entered detention on Manus Island,” he said.

“If Australia ignores the decision then it is contradicting its oft-stated claim that Manus Island detention is a matter for PNG jurisdiction.”

Labor is demanding Mr Dutton immediately travel to PNG for urgent talks with the government while the Greens want the asylum seekers brought to Australia.