In what is believed to be the largest settlement for a human rights class action lawsuit in the country’s legal history, the Australian government has agreed to pay out $70 million in compensation to 1,905 asylum seekers who were detained on Manus Island between 2012 and 2016.
The case, headed by lead plaintiff Majid Kamasaee, alleged that the government and co-defendants G4S and Broadspectrum held them in conditions that caused “serious physical and psychological injuries” and that they had been falsely imprisoned since Papua New Guinea‘s Supreme Court ruled indefinite detention to be unconstitutional.
In a statement, Kamasaee described detention on Manus as “hell“:
“I came to Australia seeking peace, but I was sent to Manus, which was hell. Every day in the harsh sun, my skin felt like it was on fire. I was in pain every minute of every day … I cried every night until I had nothing left.“This case is not just about me, it is about everyone who has been trapped on Manus Island. Our voices have never been listened to, but today we are finally being heard.”
Unsurprisingly, Immigration Minister and professional potato impersonator Peter Dutton said that the settlement was not an admission of guilt and, actually, this was all Labor‘s fault:
“Labor imposed this cost on Australians when it handed control of the nation’s borders to criminal people-smuggling syndicates. […] An anticipated six-month legal battle for this case would have cost tens of millions of dollars in legal fees alone, with an unknown outcome. In such circumstances, a settlement was considered a prudent outcome for Australian taxpayers.“The Commonwealth strongly refutes and denies the claims made in these proceedings. Settlement is not an admission of liability in any regard.”
The settlement also very conveniently means that the government will avoid undergoing an intense and hitherto unseen level of scrutiny of and access to the details of their detention practices on Manus.
Those that were detained will be paid out proportionately to the time spent on the island and the experiences they had. It is expected the government will also have to pay out another $20 million in legal costs.
Source: SMH, ABC, Huffington Post.
Photo: Getty Images.