A $70 million compensation deal from the Australian Government to detainees on Manus Island has been approved by Victoria's Supreme Court in what's believed to be the largest human rights settlement in the country's legal history.
In June an agreement was reached to compensate 1,300 asylum seekers and refugees detained on Manus between 2012 and 2016, just before a trial against the Commonwealth and and security companies Transfield and G4S was expected to start.
Justice Cameron Macauley on Wednesday said the $70 million compensation would allow money to be allocated to to reflect each applicant's personal circumstances.
"We sued the Commonwealth of Aus & their sub-contractors. We said, you've got a duty of care." On settlement for Manus Island detainees. pic.twitter.com/MYFipiyPHe— ABC News (@abcnews) September 6, 2017
"I am comfortably satisfied that the amount of $70 million amongst participants is a fair and reasonable sum," Justice Macauley is reported to have said.
"This is reached with a strong degree of conviction."
The Federal Government wants to close the Manus Island centre by the end of October, after Papua New Guinea's highest court ruled the centre was illegal.
Manus The Class Action was run on behalf of 1,923 detainees held at the detention centre between late 2012 and and late 2014. The claims:
Who is the lead plaintiff?
- That detainees suffered serious physical and psychological injuries as a result of the conditions they were held in;
- false imprisonment was added to the action in 2016 after the PNG Supreme Court ruled the detention of asylum seekers on Manus breached PNG's constitution.
When did the class action begin?
- Majid Kamasaee (pronunciation: MA-jid KAM-ah-SAY) who was detained at the Manus Island Centre for a number of years.
When was it settled?
- In December 2014;
How many registered for the settlement?
- A $70 million conditional settlement was reach on 14 June 2017. It's believed to be the largest human rights class action settlement in Australian legal history;
- 1,346 are currently registered to participate in the class action settlements and registrations will stay open until 25 September 2017.
- The Commonwealth of Australia and its contracted service providers G4S and Broadspectrum (formerly known as Transfield).
Currently 800 men remain on the island.
"We didn't sue the PNG government. We sued the Commonwealth of Australia and their subcontractors and we said 'you've got a duty of care," Lawyer Rory Walsh said outside court.
"The Commonwealth did not want that tested in a court of law. The Commonwealth settled this case and have $70 million not to have that fiction tested in court.
This is hush money designed to keep secret the horrors Peter Dutton is inflicting on his detainees on Manus Island.https://t.co/T9LKqRYDYl— Nick McKim (@NickMcKim) September 6, 2017
"We think that fiction is now at an end and the Commonwealth has a duty to these people and ought discharge that duty by treating them fairly."
Asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani, who resides on Manus, said one potential problem with the settlement is a lack of access to bank accounts.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said in June the decision to settle was not an admission of liability, but was preferable to a lengthy and expensive trial.
"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," Dutton said.
A big problem with the compensation is we don't have a right to have bank accounts in PNG. The lawyers should consider this issue.#Manus— Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) September 6, 2017
Greens senator Nick McKim -- who recently visited Manus Province -- described the settlement as 'hush money'.
Asylum seekers protesting the shift from the detention centre have accused authorities of failing in their duty of care.