Australia reaches settlement with suing asylum seekers

Australia reaches settlement with suing asylum seekers

Australia reaches settlement with suing asylum seekers

Almost 2,000 refugees held in a remote detention centre in Papua New Guinea are to receive the equivalent of 47 million euros in compensation after the Australian government agreed to settle their court case on Wednesday.

The class action was seeking damages on behalf of 1,905 group members who, legal firm Slater and Gordon says, cover the majority of people detained on Manus Island since 2012.

About 1,905 asylum seekers who were held, or are now being held, at the Australian government's offshore detention center on Manus Island filed a class action suit claiming the government did not deliver on its duty of care by housing them in, and exposing them to, conditions which were not up to Australian standards between 2012 and 2016.

The heavy and hostile conditions should be compensated, so the defendants also agreeing to pay more than A$20 million in costs.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Australia Immigration Minister's office said they "strongly refuted" the detainee's claims and the settlement was not an admission of liability.

They said the compensation would be distributed among the former and current detainees according to the length of their detention and the severity of the injuries and illnesses they allege they suffered.

Under Australian law, anyone intercepted trying to reach the country by boat is sent for processing to detention centres on Manus Island or the Pacific island of Nauru. The United Nations and rights groups have criticised the camps due to their harsh conditions and allegations of systemic abuse.

Maintaining the Manus Island detention facility reportedly cost taxpayers more than $1 billion over a four-year period, with the Refugee Action Coalition calculated the cost as being roughly the equivalent of $400,000 per detainee.

"This case is not just about me, it is about every person who has been trapped on Manus Island", Kamasaee said.

The Manus camp was scheduled to close by October, Baker said. Every day in the harsh sun my skin felt like it was on fire.

Lead plaintiff Majid Kamasaee fled Iran in 2013 because of religious persecution.

But shortly before the trial began, lawyers for the claimants said the government and its service providers had offered a last minute settlement of A$70m.

"The Refugee Council welcomes this substantial pay-out by the Turnbull government although it delivers only a modicum of compensation for the pain these 1,905 people have endured", O'Connor said.

Slater and Gordon lawyer Rory Walsh said the government and its contractor's defence "was that it was the PNG authorities doing the imprisoning and detaining and not them". They are blocked from resettling in Australia even if found to be refugees.

A class action seeking damages for 1900 Manus Island detainees may end up being settled, avoiding Australia's largest trial concerning immigration detention. "The way we were treated at the Manus Island Detention Centre was degrading and cruel, but sadly, many of my friends are still there", he said.

Protestors against asylum seekers being deported, gather for a rally in Sydney, Australia, Feb. 4, 2016.

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