(Reproduced from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-26/png-court-rules-asylum-seeker-detention-manus-island-illegal/7360078)
PNG’s Supreme Court rules detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal
The five-man bench of the court ruled the detention breached the right to personal liberty in the PNG constitution.
There are 850 men in the detention centre on Manus Island, about half of whom have been found to be refugees.
The Supreme Court has ordered the PNG and Australian Governments to immediately take steps to end the detention of asylum seekers in PNG.
“Both the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments shall forthwith take all steps necessary to cease and prevent the continued unconstitutional and illegal detention of the asylum seekers or transferees at the relocation centre on Manus Island and the continued breach of the asylum seekers or transferees constitutional and human rights,” the judges ordered.
In one of two lead judgments, Justice Terence Higgins said the detention also breached asylum seekers’ fundamental human rights guaranteed by various conventions on human rights at international law and under the PNG constitution.
“Treating those required to remain in the relocation centre as prisoners irrespective of their circumstances or status … is to offend against their rights and freedoms,” Judge Higgins said.
Loani Henao, the lawyer for former PNG opposition leader Belden Namah, said the decision showed the PNG Government had ignored its own laws when it accepted Australia’s asylum seekers.
“The gist of the ruling is the arrangement between the governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia is unconstitutional from day one,” he said.
Mr Henao said PNG was influenced by Australia in amending its constitution, to the benefit of Australia.
“That is disgraceful,” he said.
The centre operators and PNG’s immigration authorities have recently been trying to move refugees out of detention and into a so-called transit centre.
They are also offering them the chance to leave detention during the day under certain conditions.
The asylum seekers whose applications have not succeeded are unable to leave detention and are being told they must go back to their country of origin.
The Supreme Court decision means both groups — refugees and asylum seekers — are being illegally detained, because their freedom of movement is curtailed.
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