Ausralia detention camp ruled unconstitutional by PNG court
Apr 26, 2016 12:12 PM EDT
Australia's detention of asylum seekers at a facility in the Pacific nation's Manus Island was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea.
The ruling could reignite debate on Australia's tough and highly divisive policy of refusing to admit asylum seekers who want to enter the country by boat, ABC News reported. As a morally questionable tactic Australia pays Papua New Guinea and Nauru to host these so-called "boat people" in detention camps.
The Supreme Court called the detention of the asylum seekers a violation of their constitutional right to personal liberty. It ordered the government of both countries to take immediate steps toward setting free the 900 men held in the facility.
The camps have been widely condemned and many in Australia and the international community have called for their closure. An Australian Senate inquiry in 2015 reported that the camps had poor hygiene, provided little educational opportunties, and even instances of sexual assault. Current and former child detainees described them as prison where some have been detained for more than three years.
However, BBC News reported that Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement that the PNG court's decision did not change the immigration policy of Australia.
"People who have attempted to come illegally by boat and are now in the Manus facility will not be settled in Australia," the statement said, repeating the Australian government's long-standing policy.
The opposition Labor party urged the government to hold urgent talks with Papua New Guinea following the court's order, while critics of Australia's hard-line immigration policy declared as dead the country's offshore processing of asylum seekers.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said that the game is up and the government should shut the Manus Island detention center and bring the detainees to Australia. She said she welcomes this very important decision that shows Australia has been illegally detaining refugees on Manus Island for years.