New class action over asylum seeker detention

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton
Contributed by Ben Wilson

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton faces a new class action case from asylum seekers, who feel they have been maltreated by the Australian government over the last 6 years.

Documents have been lodged in the Federal Court, where the case is to be heard in December.

Prominent law firm Maurice Blackburn is representing, what could be a case involving thousands of individuals.

In a separate case only a month ago, the government was compelled to reach a $70 million settlement, involving about 2,000 claimants and had to pay a further $20 million in legal costs.

The difference with the new claim according to Maurice Blackburn, is that it is proceeding on new grounds that have not previously been tested.  It could have far ranging implications.

For example, one of the plaintiffs is a four year old boy, who was  locked up on Christmas Island with his parents for 480 days. The matter being pursued here is that the government failed to detain him for removal offshore and that is visa claim was not processed. It is alleged that because it had no clear purpose, the detention had no legal basis.

Strengthening the claim is that fact that when officials eventually turned to process the application, the boy was quickly given a bridging visa. This suggests that he always had a good case.

The class action was lodged at the time of release of a report from Human Rights Watch, about the  seething unrest at Manus Island detention centre, associated conditions of its closure.

The report is based on interviews with 40 refugees and service providers and it paints a picture of alleged brutal attacks that have never been properly investigated.

Elaine Pearson, directors of the organisation in Australia, suggested that because of the threat to their safety, inmates had reason to resist the method of the closure.

In response, the Australian government has denied that there is such a safety risk.

Gillian Triggs, former boss of the Australian Human Rights Commission, blasted what has been going on at Manus as “illegal, cruel and unworkable,” and part of a “shameful history of chronic failure to comply with our human rights obligations”.

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