In April last year, the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ruled that the Manus Island detention centre was illegal and must be closed.
The refugees in detention at the camp have since been in limbo, unsure and fearful for their future, they risk being stranded and homeless in PNG as the Australian government has revealed no plans for moving the detainees and has washed their hands of the matter.
With the fear of the upcoming closure date of October 31, the refugees have been engaged in daily protests over their worsening conditions, lack of services, and obscenely lengthy detentions. The protests have now surpassed the 50-day mark.
In another matter concerning the Manus Island refugees a Victorian supreme court judge has approved a $70 million settlement between refugees detained at Manus and the government. Over 1900 former and current detainees had launched a class action lawsuit over their criminal and abusive treatment at the hands of the Australian government and private contractors.
It is obvious that a settlement was reached because the government feared that the horrible truth of what occurs in Australia’s offshore detention camps would have come to light in court, but equally, they fear the legal ramifications if the case was lost.
The law firm that represented the Manus refugees explained that it would have legally established that the Australian government has a duty of care for the detainees on Manus, and not the PNG government as they claim.
This settlement, however, cannot free those still imprisoned on Manus Island, and it remains to be seen how those detainees will even receive their compensation, as they are prohibited from opening bank accounts in Australia or PNG.
The only just solution to this rotten mess is to end the offshore detention of refugees and bring them to live in Australia, where they can be processed in the community.
By Dane Letcher