In a surprising development, the the Federal Government has agreed to pay a $70 million compensation to detainees on Manus Island in response to a class action lawsuit. Asylum seekers claim to have endured physical and psychological abuse and harm while being held in detention on Manus Island between 2012 and 2016. Just a few weeks ago, it was announced that the centre was closing after allegations, criticisms and condemnations mounted against the government.
The Manus Island camps have been the subject of heated controversy, with the international community declaring them a human rights violation, and stories from abuse within the compounds coming to the public eye. The most shocking part of the announcement is that, in settling the suit, the Australian government is, to some extent, admitting guilt regarding their treatment of asylum seekers on Manus.
Immigration Minister, and guy who perpetually looks unimpressed or like he’s about to tut at you Peter Dutton said that settling the case was a more sensible option, as the trial was anticipated to last up to six months, and cost tens of millions in legal fees alone. Mr Dutton blamed the former Labor government for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection becoming the most litigated Commonwealth department. Which is weird, considering this litigation happened under his watch, and not Labour’s. But I digress.
Slater & Gordon, the law firm who was behind the class action asserted that the trial would have been the largest immigration detention trial ever in Australia. Slater & Gordon claimed that the settlement was not an admission of liability – but, I mean, it kind of is, right? At least an acknowledgement of wrongdoing. “It denied it was doing the false imprisoning … the Commonwealth defence was that it was the PNG authorities doing the imprisoning and detaining and not them,” a representative for the law firm told the ABC.
This is a huge win for people who have been ignored and neglected as part of one of our greatest national shames.