Millennium Post

‘Aus govt’s detention Lankan asylum-seekers legal’

‘Aus govt’s detention Lankan asylum-seekers legal’
Australia’s detention of 157 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum-seekers on the high seas for a month last year was legal, the country’s apex court ruled on Wednesday, in a victory for the government’s tough anti-immigration policy.

In a close 4-3 verdict, the High Court ruling said that the asylum-seekers were lawfully held by Australian authorities on the Customs vessel Ocean Protector and the asylum-seekers, who are now in Nauru, were not entitled to any compensation.

Defence lawyers for the asylum-seekers had earlier argued that the government could have sent the group straight to Australia or Nauru once they were rescued from their boat which had suffered a pump failure 16 nautical miles off Christmas Island on June 29.

However, according to the judgment, the Customs vessel then sailed to India, where the asylum-
seekers were believed to have departed from, under the direction of the national security committee of cabinet, which included then immigration minister Scott Morrison.

With no agreement on the asylum-seekers to be able to disembark in India, the passengers were then detained for a “further period” until the minister decided that it was “not practicable” to discharge the asylum-seekers, instead sending them to Cocos Island.

They were detained for a month on the boat where they were allowed only limited hours of daylight before eventually being transferred to the offshore processing centre in Nauru.

“I am pleased with the result and obviously there’s a 157-page judgment that the government will now consider in detail,” Dutton said.

In its ruling the High Court said the detainment was lawful under the Migration Powers Act, which enables maritime officers to detain a person outside Australia.

Defence team of the asylum seekers called the outcome “disappointing”.


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