Victoria’s Supreme Court has approved a compensation deal from the Australian Government worth $70 million for former detainees on Manus Island.
Detainees including asylum seekers and refugees were being compensated for being illegally detained between 2012 and 2016, as well as negligent protection and housing by the Federal Government.
The group alleged the Commonwealth breached its duty of care while holding them in conditions that did not meet Australian standards.
They also claimed they were falsely imprisoned after Papua New Guinea ruled their detention was illegal.
1383 group members have so far registered out of the 1923 detainees.
Those who have not registered have not yet been contacted or are still in negotiations to join.
56 have opted out.
It is the largest human rights settlement deal in Australian legal history.
Justice Cameron Macaulay approved the class action settlement on Wednesday, with the Australian government and Manus Island Regional Processing Centre operators Transfield and G4S.
“I am comfortably satisfied that a figure of $70 million to be distributed without deduction of costs amongst participating group members is a fair and reasonable sum,” he said.
“My degree of satisfaction is not merely marginal but is reached with a strong degree of conviction.”
Legal firm Slater and Gordon hopes to compensate the class action group before the centre closes at the end of October.
Refuge and Protection Denied Led to Justice for Detainees
Slater and Gordon practice group leader Rory Walsh said the settlement gave a medium of justice for the detainees.
“These detainees came to Australia seeking refuge and protection,” he said outside court.
“This was denied by success Commonwealth governments.”
He said it put “fiction” that the government did not have a duty of care to the detainee in offshore detention in Papua New Guinea.
“We think that fiction is now at an end and the Commonwealth has a duty to these people and sought discharge that duty by treating them fairly,” he said.
“The Commonwealth settled this case and paid $70 million not to have that fiction tested in court.”
The Federal Government has not yet responded, but said previously the case was settled because it was a more sensible preference than a potential six month trial, expected to cost tens of millions of dollars in legal fees.
Detainees Permanently Scarred Despite Compensation
Some refuges were sceptical about the payout despite the settlement.
Iranian refugee Ben Moghimi, who is currently being transferred to a hotel in Port Moresby said the payment was not adequate compensation.
“No amount of money could return back how I suffered in past years by [the] Australian government in here,” he told Fairfax Media.
“Many of [the] guys here aren’t happy about this but everyone is sick mentally so they had no choice so they had to accept it.”
However, Slater and Gordon’s Andrew Baker said most detainees were happy with the result.
“It’s rare in any class action to have a completely uniform response across the entire group,” he said.