The High Court has thrown out a legal challenge lodged against the Manus Island detention centre, allowing the Abbott Government to continue its policy of offshore processing.
The unanimous decision upholds the Migration Act and subsequent actions of the government, quashing the potential closure of the controversial centre which witnessed the death of asylum seeker Reza Berati.
Last month, lawyers for an Iranian asylum seeker, known as S156, argued before the court that his detention was not valid under the constitution.
They accused former immigration minister Chris Bowen of failing to legally designate Manus Island as an asylum seeker processing centre.
The decision handed down by the court provided further details on the challenge lodged by the asylum seeker, who entered Australia's migration zone by sea at Christmas Island in July last year,
His entry qualified him as an ‘unauthorised maritime arrival” and ensured his transferral to the Manus Island centre.
The man claims he is a member of a minority religious group and that he fears persecution in Iran, but court documents detail that he did not make an application for a protection visa.
Lawyers acting for the asylum seeker submitted that the Minister's decision to designate Papua New Guinea as a regional processing country was invalid.
They argued that Australia's international law obligations had not been sufficiently taken into account, nor had the need to consult with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees prior to designation.
The court dismissed the argument, though noted in its judgement that “there may be some doubt whether the provisions of subdiv B [of the Migration Act], which were inserted after these cases, can be said to respond to Australia's obligations under the Refugees Convention”.
Lawyers also argued that the government had no evidence that Papua New Guinea would “fulfil its assurances and would promote the maintenance of a programme which was fair” to detainees.
The argument was also thrown out by the court.
The High Court reached the unanimous decision that the Act and subsequent actions of the government minister were valid under the Constitution.
It also ordered the asylum seeker to pay costs involved with the case, which can now be remitted for determination in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
The following series of questions and answers were provided in the judgement.
Is Section 198AB of the Migration Act 1958 invalid on the ground that is it not supported by any head power in Section 51 of the Constitution?
Is Section 198AD of the Migration Act 1958 invalid on the ground that is it not supported by any head power in Section 51 of the Constitution?
Is the Minister’s designation that Paupa New Guinea is a regional processing country made on October 9 2012 under Section 198AB of the Migration Act 1958 invalid?
Is the Minister’s direction made on July 29 2013 under Section 198AD(5) of the Migration Act 1958 invalid?