Australia’s detention camps in Papua New Guinea ruled illegal

Australian immigration minister says ruling will not change offshore detention policy

Protesters holds  placards during a rally in support of refugees in central Sydney, last year. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

Protesters holds placards during a rally in support of refugees in central Sydney, last year. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

 

Papua New Guinea’s supreme court has ruled that Australia’s practice of detaining asylum seekers on their northern Manus Island is illegal and must stop.

Papua New Guinea’s highest court said on Tuesday that the detentions breached the country’s constitution.

Under Australia’s controversial immigration laws, anyone intercepted while trying to reach the country by boat is sent for processing to camps in Nauru and Manus Island. They are never eligible to be resettled in Australia.

More than 800 people are detained on Manus Island on behalf of Australia. The detention centre on Nauru houses about 500 people and has been widely criticised by the United Nations and human rights agencies for harsh conditions and reports of systemic child abuse.

Australian’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton said the ruling would not change its policy of offshore detention.

“It does not alter Australia’s border protection policies - they remain unchanged,” said Mr Dutton.

“Those in the Manus Island regional processing centre 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.”

Australia’s asylum seeker policy has attracted international criticism from human rights groups.

“People have been detained for over three years in contravention of the laws of Papua New Guinea in abusive conditions,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch.

“It is time to stop the abuse of vulnerable people who only ask for safety and the opportunity to rebuild their lives.”