Australia’s Victoria Supreme Court has ordered the Australian government to compensate hundreds of asylum seekers for illegally detaining them in squalid conditions and systematically subjecting them to inhuman treatment on the remote island of Nauru.
The final class action settlement, reached in a lawsuit brought by Slater and Gordon law firm, is estimated at US$56 million, according to Press TV.
“These detainees came to Australia seeking refuge, compassion and protection, which were all denied to them by successive Commonwealth governments,” said Rory Welsh, primary legal representative of Slate and Gordon. The firm represents roughly 72 percent of the 1,923 asylum seekers detained on the island.
Welsh went on to say that “the result that has been achieved in this case, against significant odds, will allow meaningful compensation to be paid to group members much more quickly than would otherwise have been the case.”
However, Amir Taghinia, a detained Iranian refugee, also added, “Getting the money is not the issue,” reiterating that “we are still in the same situation, we are still suffering from the same conditions.”
The case is the largest human rights class action settlement in Australia’s history. Australia’s offshore asylum and refugee processing methods have been sharply criticized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, demanding they be returned to Australia while their applications are analyzed.
Several deaths have been registered in the offshore detention centers. Detainees have repeatedly blamed those deaths on neglect by the Australian state.
Successive governments have transferred would-be refugee and asylum seekers to Nauru and Manus Island from November 2012 to December 2014 where they’ve remained ever since. While the latter South Pacific island is geopolitically part of Papua New Guinea, the actual detention facility is under contract by the Australian state, according to Slater and Gordon.
The secluded island detention camps are part of the government’s hardline policy to keep asylum seekers who arrive by boat from reaching Australian shores.
Top photo | A group of asylum seekers who were en route to Australia hold up their identity after landing in Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. (Eoin Blackwell/AAP Image, via AP, File)