Manus Island detainees bring legal challenge before Australia court

Manus Island detainees bring legal challenge before Australia court

A group of more than 750 detainees held on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea asked [summons, PDF] the Australian High Court on Wednesday to order their transfer to mainland Australia and block a transfer to the detention center in the island nation of Nauru. The move comes after the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court [official website] ruled last week that Australia’s detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island in northern Papua New Guinea is illegal [JURIST report]. The court found that the detention center violates article 42 of Papua New Guinea’s constitution [text], which guarantees personal liberty, and ordered both governments to take steps to end the detention. The 757 detainees, some of whom have been held for more than 1,000 days, allege that both governments have committed human rights violations. A hearing has been set [SMH report] for May 23.

Last week’s ruling is in direct conflict with a recent decision by the High Court of Australia [official website], which ruled in February that the country’s offshore detention policy for asylum seekers is legal [JURIST report], rejecting a challenge that it violates the Australian constitution. The challenge was brought by lawyers for a female Bangladeshi detainee who was brought to Australia for medical reasons. Under the controversial policy, those who seek asylum in Australia arriving by boat are detained on the island nation of Nauru or on Manus Island. The policy has generated outcry from human rights advocates and some politicians. In October Amnesty International [advocacy website] said that Australia’s maritime border control agents have engaged in significant criminal activity [JURIST report], bribery, and abusive treatment of women, men, and children who are seeking asylum. In February 2014 the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] called for changes to the way Australia deals with refugees [JURIST report] seeking asylum, especially in regards to the lengthy detention of asylum-seekers.