Manus Island: Asylum seekers win right to seek compensation

A court in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has ruled that asylum seekers held in a detention centre on Manus Island can seek compensation as their human rights had been violated.

It also rejected an attempt by the PNG government to block asylum seekers’ claims from being heard.

“It is a major legal victory for the asylum seekers on Manus Island. This will cost the Australian government politically and financially,” Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul told the German press agency dpa.

The asylum seekers who had arrived in Australia by boat were sent to offshore detention centres on Manus and the Pacific island of Nauru until their claims are processed as per Australia’s strict immigration policy. Following a closure order by PNG Supreme Court, which found the Manus camp illegal, the Australian government shut it down last month.

Around 400 asylum seekers lived in the camp in squalid condition. Police had to forcibly remove them as they refused to leave fearing attacks by locals.

The asylum seekers are due to go back to court in February to seek orders from the governments of Australia and PNG for them to be settled in a third, safe country.

The court decision came amid a US announcement that it would accept 200 more refugees from Manus and Nauru as part of an agreement between the previous Obama administration and Australia. The deal covered 1,250 of the refugees from the two camps, but  so far only 50 people have been resettled due to slow processing of asylum applications.

New Zealand has also offered to take some of the men.