A major turning point in the plight of detainees on Manus Island yesterday, when Australia agreed to settle a class action lawsuit, for $530 million. Almost two thousand men will share the compensation. We have details from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
The lead plaintiff in the case, Majid Kamasaee told Radio New Zealand, “I left my home in Iran in 2013 because of religious persecution and violence. I came to Australia seeking peace, but I was sent to Manus, which was hell.”
Australia refuses to accept any asylum seekers who arrive by sea; their boats are intercepted and the migrants sent to overseas camps; women, children and families to the island nation of Nauru, men traveling alone to Manus, in Papua New Guinea. The class action suit sought compensation for conditions that caused physical and psychological harm, and for false imprisonment following a ruling by Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court last year which found the camp unconstitutional.
By settling the case, the Australian government avoids a lengthy trial. Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition told Radio New Zealand that the agreement lets Australia off with only a tacit admission, “I would much rather this went to trial and have the opportunity for all the horrors of Manus Island to be exposed.”
About 900 men remain on Manus; 700 are eligible for resettlement, some in the United States. 200 others have been denied refugee status and have been told they will be sent back to their home countries before the camp closes for good at the end of October.
Lawyers said the compensation will be divided depending on time in detention and hardships endured.