Brutal truth of Australia’s detention regime can’t be written off. Not even for $70m

Brutal truth of Australia’s detention regime can’t be written off. Not even for $70m

by Ben Doherty – The Guardian – 16 June 2017

The Australian government was prepared to pay out to stop the shame of Manus Island being aired in court. But the ultimate cost is borne by the refugees and asylum seekers who have had their lives ruined.

This is settlement, but no solution.

The announcement that the Australian government has agreed to pay $70m in compensation to 1,905 refugees and asylum seekers illegally held in offshore immigration detention on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island will bring a measure of comfort to those held in that place – in the words of one refugee still held there, “a little bit of justice”.

The indefinite confinement of 900 men continues after four years, with no definitive way out yet apparent.

Eight months after a much-vaunted deal with the US to take refugees from the Australian detention camps on Manus and Nauru was announced, not a single person has been resettled. Even if the US does take some refugees, Australia concedes it can never resettle all of those who remain under its offshore bailiwick.

It is alleged the government agreed to settle the class action, and to compensate 1,905 refugees and asylum seekers held on Manus, in order to avoid the scrutiny that an open court hearing would bring: that the government will pay any amount of money, contort itself to any legal sophistry, to keep unexamined what it is doing in those secret islands.

The Australian government, through the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, contends its settlement was a “prudent” act, designed to head off potentially far greater costs. It was settled with the condition that the government does not admit liability, and Dutton said it “strongly refutes and denies the claims made in these proceedings”.

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