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Australia’s Offshore Asylum Camps Challenged in Court

FILE - An exterior view of the government offices of the small island nation of Nauru is pictured, February 10, 2012.

Australia’s High Court is considering a challenge to the legality of the country’s offshore processing system for asylum seekers. Under hardline policies, Australia transfers unauthorized migrants who arrive by boat to camps in the South Pacific on the tiny island republic of Nauru and in Papua New Guinea.

The High Court challenge has been brought on behalf of a woman from Bangladesh who was flown from Nauru to Australia for medical treatment and has insisted it is too dangerous for her to return.

Lawyers have asked the court in Canberra to determine if it is legal for the Australian government to finance offshore processing centers, and to send asylum seekers to them.

Canberra has insisted the deals with other countries are key to the success of its asylum policy, including an agreement with Cambodia to resettle refugees. So far, four people have taken up the offer at a cost of $39.5 million.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the deal will allow asylum seekers to begin a new life.

“We're working with the Nauruan authorities and with people on Nauru to take up the Cambodian option and if we can do that, then we can provide people with an opportunity to restart, we provide support around settlement services, accommodation, jobs, education all of that. It is difficult when we've got probably well-intentioned but nonetheless refugee advocates back here who are messaging up to these people on Nauru saying don't accept any of it. Don't leave the island, you'll come to Australia,” said Dutton.

Australia grants refugee visas to 13,750 people annually under various international agreements. In September the government said an additional 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq will be allowed into Australia.