A refugee detained on Manus Island has told BuzzFeed News he intends to donate his share of compensation from the Australian government to charity.
Amir Taghinia sought asylum in Australia in 2013 after he fled religious persecution for being a Christian in his birth country Iran and has been held in an Australian government-run detention centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island ever since.
The 24-year-old is one of the 1,905 male detainees who joined a class action against Australia's Immigration Department that claimed 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.
During that time there were riots at the detention centre (February 2014) in which one detainee was killed and dozens were seriously injured.
Last month the lawyers for the detainees reached a $70 million settlement with the Immigration Department.
Taghinia is intent on donating his share of the settlement to an Australian charity because of the "great support we received from advocates in Australia".
"I think by doing this I can show a kind of gratitude to those who helped us and supported us over these four years," Taghinia told BuzzFeed News.
"The Australians who did not even know us but instead of ignoring us they chose to support us with whatever they had and they could."
He said he wanted to find a charity that assisted vulnerable Australian women and children in particular.
"The majority of people who supported us were women who acted like our mothers and sisters along with their kids," he said.
Taghinia has been talking to other detainees who were members of the class action and encouraging them to also consider donating settlement proceedings.
Law firm Slater and Gordon, which brought the action, alleged thatdetainees were unlawfully imprisoned, after Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court ruled the detention of asylum seekers breached the country's constitution.
"Starting from next week, we will be sending every group member an individualised assessment of their claim based on data from the legal proceedings," Slater and Gordon principal lawyer Andrew Baker told BuzzFeed News.
The assessments will consider time spent in detention, injuries, and conditions suffered according to medical records and any hospitalisation or transfers elsewhere for medical treatment.
The upcoming closure of the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre in October will mean the men will be dispersed around the world.
"Accordingly, we are allocating a huge amount of resources to try and finalise the proposed settlement distribution scheme before that happens, while also prioritising fairness and openness," Baker said.
Many of the refugees are hoping to be resettled in the United States under a deal struck by the Australian government with former US president Barack Obama in November last year, in which Australia would take refugees from Central America in exchange for the US resettling detainees on Nauru and Manus Island.
Wednesday marks the fourth anniversary of an announcement made by former prime minister Kevin Rudd that any asylum seeker who arrived in Australia by boat would have "no chance of being settled in Australia" as a refugee.
Vigils organised by community organisations are being held around the country by Australians who want an end to the policy of offshore detention.
“For four years consecutive Australian governments have chosen to force people seeking safety suffer in offshore detention,” Amnesty International Australia refugee coordinator Graham Thom said.
“While the agreement with the USA may offer a lifeline for some, the Australian government’s ‘solution’ is expecting other countries to clean up the mess it created by these cruel policies, and it won’t be enough to ensure safety for everyone.”
Men on Manus told BuzzFeed News earlier this month that conditions were "getting worse every day", claiming food quality was deteriorating, that they are no longer able to exercise, and many have "no idea" what their chances of resettlement are.
With a background in humanitarian science and literature, Taghinia hopes to become a human rights lawyer one day, and is hoping to be settled in the US as part of Australia's deal.
Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Gina Rushton at email@example.com.
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