Manus Island detainees’ class action begins

The Manus security contract was awarded without competitive bidding.

The Manus security contract was awarded without competitive bidding. Photo: AAP

Fifty current and former Manus Island detainees will give evidence in a class action their lawyers say will shine a light on conditions in the offshore immigration detention centre.

The 1905 group members are seeking compensation for alleged physical and psychological injuries they argue they suffered as a result of the conditions in which they were held on Manus Island.

They are also seeking additional damages for false imprisonment after the PNG Supreme Court ruled the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island was unconstitutional.

The case, due to begin in the Victorian Supreme Court this week, is expected to be the largest trial concerning immigration detention in Australia.

Slater and Gordon practice group leader Rory Walsh says the case will shine a light on the conditions experienced by Manus Island detainees.

“This case will be the largest and most forensic public examination of the events and conditions at the Manus Island detention centre, which have been shrouded in secrecy until now,” Mr Walsh said last month.

Mr Walsh has also said the class action will determine a number of important legal issues that could have far-reaching implications on Australia’s offshore detention policy.

“One of the central disputes of this action is whether the Commonwealth is in effective control of the Manus Island detention centre and therefore owes a duty of care to protect the people being held there from foreseeable harm.”

The Australian government and the companies that have managed the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, G4S Australia and Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield Services), deny the claims.

The Commonwealth argues that once they arrived in PNG, the detainees were subject to the laws of PNG and the control of the PNG government.

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Michael McDonald has already made it clear the trial is not a commission of inquiry into the merits of the Commonwealth’s offshore detention policy.

The judge-only trial will hear from 41 current or former Manus Island detainees who remain in PNG.

Slater and Gordon wants the federal government to bring the detainees to Melbourne to testify and otherwise may ask for a hearing in PNG.

The trial will also hear from lead plaintiff, Iranian-born Majid Karami Kamasaee, who spent 10 months at the Manus Island facility and now lives in community detention in Melbourne, and 10 other former Manus detainees being held in detention in Australia.

The six-month trial is set down to begin on Monday, but there is expected to be an application to delay the start until Wednesday, after the parties were involved in further pre-trial legal applications on Friday.

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter.
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.