'We're devastated': Manus asylum seeker laments PNG court decision

File image of Manus detainees Source: AAP

A Sudanese asylum seeker on Manus Island has expressed his 'devastation' after the PNG Supreme Court dismissed an application lodged by detainees to be sent to Australia.

A 24-year-old asylum seeker named Aziz has told SBS that fellow asylum seekers on Manus Island have been "left with nothing" following the application dismissal by the PNG Supreme Court on Thursday.

A ruling in favour of the 302 detainees would have meant ordering the PNG and Australian governments to transfer them to Australia within 30 days.

Lawyer Ben Lomai said the PNG ruling was a major setback but the decision was only based on technicalities.

He told the ABC, the asylum seekers were planning to refile the application.

"The dismissal, or the strikeout, is basically on technicalities,” he said.

The plan now is to return to Manus Island to collect the signatures and relaunch the application, but Mr Lomai said it had been impossible to access the men.

"Nobody can even access the centre, including the lawyers -- the journalists, the lawyers and even some other international organisations,” he said.

Aziz has been detained on Manus Island for more than three years.

He said the PNG court ruling felt like "something just dropped from the sky and hit us on our heads".

"Well I feel devastated. Not only me, but all of us here, we feel devastated,” he said.

“We've reached a point where we can't even eat or we can't even talk to each another.

"It’s really hard to describe how we feel. We put most of (our) trust, and everything we have on that court (case).

"We thought that this was our last chance (to) get out of this prison camp, but unfortunately we realised that there is nothing left for us at all, so we are really helpless at the moment.” 

The Australian government has repeatedly declared none of those on Manus Island, nor Nauru, who tried to reach Australia on people-smuggling boats will be allowed into Australia.

But Aziz is urging the Australian government to change its mind.

"If we did commit any crimes - which means we come to your country illegally - all right, it's enough,” he said.

“Three years and three months is enough. You shouldn't keep us here for four years, or five years. It's really against the international law.

“We don’t understand totally what the (Australian) government is going to do with us at the moment and being in this place is taking everything out of us, and we have completely lost our minds."


The Human Rights Law Centre's director of legal advocacy, Daniel Webb, said the PNG Supreme Court case could answer some important rights-based questions.

"We've seen the PNG Supreme Court previously say that the facility is illegal, but the question is what happens to the innocent men trapped inside it,” he said.

“Now that question hasn't been answered by the Australian government. It hasn't been answered by the Papua New Guinean government. At some point, it may be answered by the Papua New Guinean Supreme Court, and, hopefully, that day is soon."

So far, no third country has been found willing to accept any of the detainees.

New Zealand has been mentioned as a possibility, as has Costa Rica in Central America.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said in September that the government would continued to negotiate with unspecified third countries to settle those on Nauru and Manus.

Asylum seeker Resource Centre spokeswoman Pamela Curr said she was desperately concerned for the mental health of hundreds of men

"This is a real problem for this government. These men are in a suspended state of limbo,” she said.

“They have no future. And the Government is pretending they have no past."

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