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Court: Australia Detention Camp in Papua New Guinea Illegal


FILE - Protesters react as they hold placards and listen to speakers during a rally in support of refugees in central Sydney, Australia, Oct. 19, 2015. Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Australia's detention of asylum seekers at a facility on the Pacific nation's Manus Island is unconstitutional.

A Papua New Guinea court has ruled Australia's detention of asylum seekers on its northern island of Manus is illegal.

The court said Tuesday the detentions of the asylum seekers violates their constitutional right to personal liberty. It ordered the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea to take immediate steps to end the detention of more than 800 people at the facility.

Under Australia's immigration law, anyone intercepted trying to reach its shores by boat is sent for processing to camps in Papua New Guinea and the island nation of Nauru.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the ruling would not change Australia's policy of offshore detention. "No one who attempts to travel to Australia illegally by boat will settle in Australia," Dutton said.

"Those in the Manus Island Regional Processing Center found to be refugees are able to resettle in Papua New Guinea. Those found not to be refugees should return to their country of origin."

Detention Camp Sites on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea
Detention Camp Sites on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea

Human rights groups have long criticized Australia's asylum seeker policy, which the government says is aimed at protecting its borders and preventing dangerous ocean crossings in unsafe boats.

"Now that the (PNG) Supreme Court decision has been handed down, the governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia have no choice other than to comply with the law," said Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia.

"And so we will be looking forward to an announcement from both governments about the release of the 990 or so refugees and asylum seekers currently being detained in the detention center and in the transit center."