Australia’s Minister of Immigration and Border Protection [official website] on Wednesday announced [press release] a $90 million settlement in the Manus Island class action lawsuit. The settlement includes $70 million (USD $52.75 million) to be paid to the plaintiffs and $20 million in legal costs. Australia still refutes the claims in the lawsuit and states that the settlement is not an admission of guilt. Instead, it states that the settlement is required under Australia’s Legal Services Directions, which instructs to “endeavour to avoid, prevent or limit the scope of legal proceedings.” The settlement must still be approved by the Supreme Court of Victoria.The class action suit involved [CNN report] more than 1,900 detainees at Australia’s offshore asylum seeker detention center. The refugees were at the center between 2012 and 2016. As of April of this year, 821 people are still being detained on Manus Island. It is believed that this settlement opens the possibility for more class action lawsuits, including from asylum seekers being held on Nauru.
In recent years, Australia has seen significant amounts of scrutiny over its refugee detention centers in Manus Island and Nauru. In February, a coalition of legal experts filed [JURIST report] a petition against Australia in the International Criminal Court, calling the detention centers a violation of human rights. Amnesty International (AI) accused Australia in October of using the island of Nauru as an “open-air prison” [JURIST report] to prevent immigration of asylum seekers. In August Australia announced [JURIST report] that Australia and Papua New Guinea intend on closing the controversial Manus Island detention center. That same month AI and Human Rights Watch issued reports [JURIST report] stating that Australia is ignoring inhumane treatment of detainees in Nauru. Papua New Guinea officials claimed in May that refugees are not being detained [JURIST report] on Manus Island, as they are given access to mainland Australia. The statement by officials followed a ruling by the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court that the Australian off-shore detention facility was illegal, in direct opposition to a ruling [JURIST report] by the Australian Supreme Court earlier this year that the off-shore detention was legal.