04/29/2016, 16.53
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Manus Island refugees to sue PNG

The fate of almost a thousand people held in a detention camp on Manus Island has not yet been decided after PNG authorities decided to close the facility. With Port Moresby and Canberra expected to hold emergency talks, lawyers for the asylum seekers plan to “go straight to assessing reasonable compensation” in the billions.

Port Moresby (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Lawyers for almost a thousand asylum seekers held in a detention centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea (PNG), said that they plan to seek potentially billions of dollars in compensation after the PNG Supreme Court ruled against the facility, prompting the government to close it.

The sea between Papua New Guinea and Australia is a prime route for refugees mostly from Southeast Asia and the Middle East seeking to reach Australia.

The Manus island facility is infamous for the tensions it has created in Australia whose government is bent on rejecting asylum seekers even when they are bona fide refugees.

Immigration is a political hot potato in Australia where Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in the middle of a general election campaign set for July.

Successive Australian governments have steadfastly said that people who attempt the dangerous sea crossing will never be allowed to settle in Australia.

PNG-based lawyer Ben Lomai, who represents more than 300 of the detainees, told the Post Courier, a PNG newspaper, that he would file a compensation case. “We can go straight to assessing reasonable compensation without having to prolong the case any further,” Lomai said.

To settle the impasse, Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has suggested that one option was to transfer the Manus Island detainees to another facility on tiny Nauru, another South Pacific island.

Nauru already houses about 500 people and has been similarly criticised for harsh conditions and reports of systematic child abuse.

Two days ago, a 23-year-old man from Iran set himself on fire at the centre in protest against his treatment. He died today from his injuries.

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