Published: Thu, June 15, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Asylum seekers win $53M settlement from Australian government

Asylum seekers win $53M settlement from Australian government

On Wednesday, lawyers for the nearly 2,000 asylum seekers reached a settlement with the Australian government for compensation after alleged physical and psychological abuse at the centre.

The Australian government has agreed to compensate 1,905 refugees it detained in Papua New Guinea under controversial asylum laws. United Nations denounces Australia's "inhumane treatment" of asylum seekers detained off-shore with physical/psychological harm. Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) 14 juin 2017 Some 1,905 men who were detained at the facility between November 2012 and December 2014 filed legal claims previous year against the Australian government and two contractors who ran the camp.

Lawyers Slater and Gordon said they believed it was the largest human rights class action settlement in Australian history, with the defendants also agreeing to pay costs of more than Aus$20 million.

But Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was unapologetic and said the settlement had been made to spare taxpayers the expense of a court case that had been anticipated to last at least six months.

Mr Baker said each detainee's compensation amount will be calculated individually, with regard to the length of their detention, the events and conditions they experienced, and the severity of any injuries.

The Manus detention facility opened in 2012 to hold people trying to enter Australia by boat, under a tough immigration policy that sends them offshore to be processed.

The camp is one of two Australian centres for processing asylum-seekers that have attracted widespread criticism from the United Nations and human rights groups because of alleged harsh conditions and abuse.

The United States is considering resettling up to 1,250 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru under a deal Australia struck with the USA when Barack Obama was president. I was in pain every minute of every day of Manus Island.

Between 1999 and 2011, the Immigration Department paid $23.4 million in compensation to people who had been held in Australian-run immigration detention centres, documents obtained under Freedom of Information by the Australian Lawyers Alliance showed.

Australia plans to close the Manus facility by the end of October, and says the men will be Papua New Guinea's responsibility once that happens.

Slater and Gordon principal lawyer Andrew Baker said the settlement reflected the unquestionable importance of access to justice.

The settlement means that Manus detainees' voices were "finally being heard", according to a statement from the lead plaintiff of the case. "When I arrived on Manus they confiscated my medicine".

Amnesty International's pacific researcher Kate Scheutze said the settlement was not an admission of liability by the Australian government.

"It denied it was doing the false imprisoning. the Commonwealth defence was that it was the PNG authorities doing the imprisoning and detaining and not them", he said. "We saw this firsthand when we worked on Manus Island and Nauru, where the impacts on children were especially dire".

Sudanese asylum seeker Abdul Aziz Muhamat told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Port Moresby, where he's receiving medical treatment, that he's "really happy" with the outcome.

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