Court Cases Brought Against Government Over Asylum Seeker Treatment
Two cases have been brought against the Australian government allege that it has abrogated its duty of care in its treatment of asylum seekers.
Prominent human rights lawyer Julian Burnside and lawyers from the National Justice Project have brought parallel cases, representing asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.
The National Justice Project has argued that the government has inflicted mental and physical pain upon its clients so as to “deter other people from trying to get to Australia by boat in order to seek asylum.”
The Guardian reports that the Justice Project’s legal team will claim that asylum seekers have been subjected to inadequate food and water, denial of proper medical assessment and treatment, and arbitrary imprisonment, among other claims.
The cases have been filed in the High Court of Australia. The organisations repsonsible are seeking damages and injunctions against the alleged breaches of care.
Australia restarted its detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru under the leadership of the Gillard Labor Government. Since then, twelve people have died, including from suicide, murder, and untreated medical conditions.
There are currently over 1000 asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. Most of these cases have been found by government agencies to be genuine refugees.
The majority of children have been temporarily removed from Nauru for medical checks and care in Australia, although ten currently remain in Nauru.
The Morrison Liberal Government has previously claimed that the asylum seekers currently on Manus Island and Nauru are the responsibility of host nations. However, memorandums of understanding note that Australia is in charge of operations, and all associated costs.
The announcement of the cases comes days after the Senate passed a Bill to bring the remaining children on Nauru to Australia. Legislation would need to also pass the House of Representatives for this to happen, however, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison arguing he will do everything in his power to prevent the Bill from becoming law.
The news also comes on the United Nations’ International Human Rights Day, which marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration proclaims inalienable rights that all human beings are entitled to.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor