Skip To Content

    Human Rights Of Those Detained By Australia On Manus Have Been Breached, PNG Court Rules

    "This will cost the Australian government, politically and financially,” advocates say.

    Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court has ruled the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers detained by the Australian government on Manus Island have been breached.

    World Vision / PR IMAGE

    Sri Lankan asylum seeker Dennis, 36, looking out to the sea on Manus Island.

    The court found in April last year that asylum seekers were illegally detained on Manus Island but it has now dismissed an attempt by the PNG government to stop the detainees making compensation claims for that.

    Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Ian Rintoul said the finding opened the door for detainees to be compensated.

    "This will cost the Australian government, politically and financially,” Rintoul said in a statement.

    “PNG lawyers will be seeking orders that the Australian and PNG government provide a safe, third country for the asylum seekers unlawfully sent to Manus Island.”

    #Manus Big win today in PNG Supreme Court. Detention continued after 26 April 2016 decision ordering end of detenti…

    In June, Manus detention centre staff and local police closed down the on-site gym and removed the equipment, while the food quality deteriorated, refugees told BuzzFeed News.

    That month, a class action seeking damages for almost 2,000 men detained on Manus Island reached a $70 million settlement with the Immigration Department ahead of what was to be an expected six-month trial.

    The class action claimed that detainees suffered serious physical and psychological injuries as a result of the conditions in which they were held on Manus Island from November 2012 to December 2014.

    Lawyers also alleged detainees were unlawfully imprisoned after Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court ruled the detention of asylum seekers breached the country's constitution.

    Asylum seekers who missed out on compensation from that case may be eligible for payment for alleged breaches of their human rights, the coalition said.

    In a separate application by Kurdish refugee Behrouz Boochani, the Supreme Court on Friday set down a hearing for February 5 to consider possible human rights breaches committed during the siege at, and forced eviction from, the Manus detention centre at Lombrum.

    Last month the PNG Supreme Court refused to issue an injunction to restore food, water and power to the centre.

    Daniel Munoz / AAPIMAGE

    Hundreds of people march in support of Manus Island refugees during a rally at Hyde Park, Sydney on November 18, 2017.

    Three weeks ago all 328 men who refused to leave the decommissioned Manus Island detention centre for almost a month were moved to new accommodation by Papua New Guinea police and immigration officials.

    The Papua New Guinea government shut the facility down at the end of October, but over 400 men remained in the centre, refusing to move to another centre set up to house them because they felt their safety was at risk.

    Meanwhile, almost 200 refugees detained on Manus Island and Nauru were on Friday accepted for resettlement in the United States under the deal struck by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and former US president Barack Obama.

    Fairfax Media reported that around 130 people on Nauru, including families, and about 60 men on Manus Island, have received final approval to go to the US and could fly out as early as next month.

    In late September 54 refugees from the centres were flown to the US, the first to be accepted under the Turnbull-Obama deal.

    Gina Rushton is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Gina Rushton at

    Got a confidential tip? Submit it here