Detained Manus asylum seekers target Australia with court case

The lawyer for more than 600 Manus Island detainees will seek a Papua New Guinea Supreme Court order to make Australia legally liable for the closure of the centre and take back the refugees and asylum seekers.

Asylum seekers at the Manus Island detention centre

Source: AAP

The imprisonment of about 850 men by Australia on Manus Island for offshore processing was declared illegal under the PNG constitution by the court earlier this week.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton has said Australia is not a party to the PNG court proceeding and it will not allow any of the men into the country.

Port Moresby-based lawyer Ben Lomai, who acts for about 600 of the detainees, said they have not yet been released from the centre.

“The important point is we will be seeking leave to join Australia, as a party to these proceedings, and then I’ll get an order to have the asylum seekers returned back to Australia,” he said.

“In that way, we don’t have to worry about seeking to apply to enforce judgement in a foreign jurisdiction.

The application will seek an order from the Supreme Court that "asylum seekers and the refugees, who were the subject to the memorandum of agreements between PNG and Commonwealth of Australia, shall forthwith be released into the care of the Commonwealth of Australia and be returned back to Australia, being the first port of entry, within 30 days or a time practicable, but not less than 60 days, from the date of this order."

Mr Lomai said he expects to file the application by tomorrow for a hearing to be scheduled for Monday.

“Of course we will be serving on the consulate here on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia, and that will take some time for them to have a look at the documents,” he said.

PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill said yesterday the Manus Island centre must close but the timeframe depended on negotiations with the Australian government.

The Supreme Court ordered earlier this week said that, “both the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments shall forthwith take all steps necessary to cease and prevent the continued unconstitutional and illegal detention of the asylum seekers or transferees at the relocation centre on Manus Island and the continued breach of the asylum seekers or transferees constitutional and human rights.”

Mr Lomai said contempt of court proceedings would also be filed if the detainees were not released.

The detained men on Manus island celebrated at news of the decision but now again fear what will happen to them.

“At least they’ve been give back their freedom, but it comes with mixed feelings for them because what is next," Mr Lomai said.

“Most of them want to come to Australia. Are they going to go to Australia, Nauru or a third country?”

3 min read
Published 28 April 2016 at 3:31pm
By Stefan Armbruster