Asylum-Seekers in Australia Win $53m Payout

Asylum-Seekers in Australia Win $53m PayoutAsylum-Seekers in Australia Win $53m Payout

Detainees at an Australian asylum-seeker camp in Papua New Guinea won millions of dollars in compensation for “degrading and cruel” treatment on Wednesday, in a decision hailed as an important human rights victory.

Abuse, self-harm and mental health problems are reportedly rife in offshore processing centers, with detainees resorting to desperate protests like sewing their own lips together to raise awareness of their plight, AFP reported.

Wednesday’s AUS$70 million (US$53 million) conditional settlement, to be shared by 1,905 people who have been held on Manus Island since 2012, averted a public trial against the government and security providers Transfield and G4S.

A class action had sought damages for what claimants said was suffering due to the harsh conditions in which they were held.

It also called for a payout for false imprisonment after the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ruled last year that holding asylum-seekers on Manus Island was unconstitutional and illegal.

Law firm Slater and Gordon said they believed it was the largest human rights class action settlement in Australian history, with the defendants also agreeing to pay more than AUS$20 million in costs.

“The people detained on Manus Island have endured extremely hostile conditions, but they will no longer suffer in silence,” said the firm’s Andrew Baker.

Lead plaintiff Majid Kamasaee, an Iranian, welcomed the settlement as an overdue acknowledgement of the suffering he and others endured.

“This case is not just about me, it is about every person who has been trapped on Manus Island,” said Kamasaee, who was held there for 11 months.

“I came to Australia seeking peace, but I was sent to Manus, which was hell. The way we were treated at the Manus Island detention center was degrading and cruel.”

While the Manus camp needs to close following the PNG court decision, Dutton has made clear those housed there would not be moved to Australia but instead relocated to third countries such as the United States and Cambodia, or resettled in PNG.

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