Sydney, Australia | AFP | Wednesday 13/06/2017 – The equivalent of 47 million euros will be paid to nearly 2,000 refugees in compensation for their detention in a controversial Australian offshore camp, a decision hailed on Wednesday as a victory for human rights man.
This amicable settlement will also allow the Australian government, and the private security companies Transfield and G4S responsible for the management of the camp, to avoid a lawsuit.
A total of 70 million Australian dollars will have to be shared between 1,905 people who are or have been detained since 2012 in the camp on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, according to the law firm Slater and Gordon which had brought the collective action (class action).
Australia has come under fire from human rights organisations, as well as the UN, for its extremely tough policy towards asylum seekers.
Its navy systematically pushes back illegal ships. Those who manage to reach its shores despite everything are placed in detention camps outside Australia, such as in Manus, in Papua New Guinea, or on Nauru, a small island in the Pacific, while they apply for asylum. be examined.
The very existence of these camps has for years aroused the anger of NGOs, which have also denounced the living conditions in these facilities, the total absence of prospects for the detainees, the violations of human rights, the attempts to self-harm and suicides.
The detainees of the island of Manus had appealed last year to demand compensation for the physical and moral damage suffered.
– A large unpacking avoided –
They also denounced arbitrary detention, invoking a judgment handed down last year by the local Supreme Court which had found “illegal” and “unconstitutional” the detention of asylum seekers in Manus.
The plaintiffs were additionally awarded A$20 million in legal costs.
“Those detained on Manus have lived in extremely hostile conditions, but they will no longer suffer in silence,” said attorney Andrew Baker, of Slater and Gordon.
“While no amount of money can fully acknowledge the terrible prison conditions, we hope this settlement can begin to help inmates put this sad chapter in their lives behind them,” he added.
Even if their asylum claim is deemed legitimate, Canberra does not allow illegal immigrants to settle in Australia. Australia claims that this harsh policy is the only way to dissuade refugees from embarking on the perilous crossing to its shores.
On Wednesday, Amnesty International hailed a “historic” decision, “a significant breach in Australia’s faltering official system”.
“It must be a turning point towards a better solution for refugees, which is based on protection and not on mistreatment”, adds the organization.
But Australia’s immigration minister stressed that the payment was in no way an admission of responsibility on the part of his government. But that it just avoided a long and expensive trial.
“Under such circumstances, settling was seen as a prudent course for the Australian taxpayer,” he said in a statement.
“The Commonwealth categorically rejects the allegations made in this action.”
A possible lawsuit would have involved a great public unpacking on the Australian migration policy and on the living conditions in the camps. But Australia has repeatedly been accused of the greatest opacity on the issue.
“The line of defense from the lawyers (from Australia) was to say that it was Papua, not her, that was responsible for the continued detention,” Rory Walsh, another lawyer, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. complainants.
“This denial allows (Australia) to continue to run these camps.”
The Manus camp is supposed to close soon due to the Papua court ruling. And Mr. Dutton has repeatedly said that the occupants of the camp would not be sent to Australia, but probably to a third country.
The government has not announced any plans to close the Nauru camp.