Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court has ruled Australia’s detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal.
A copy of the PNG Supreme Court judgment has confirming the ruling.
A five-man bench of the court ruled the detention breached the right to personal liberty under the PNG Constitution.
“The undisputed facts clearly reveal that asylum seekers had no intention of entering and remaining in PNG. Their destination was and continues to be Australia. They did not enter PNG and do not remain in PNG of their own accord,” the judgment said.
As part of the judgment, the Supreme Court has ordered the PNG and Australian governments to immediately take steps to end the detention of asylum seekers in PNG.
It is understood that there are 850 men currently in the detention centre on Manus Island.
Not for Profit aid agency Save the Children chief executive Paul Ronalds said the decision by the Supreme Court in Papua New Guinea provided an opportunity for Australia to rethink its refugee policy.
“The offshore processing centre on Manus Island was always unsustainable,” Ronalds said.
“The offshore detention facility on Manus Island has undermined our relationship with Papua New Guinea. We’ve lost any leverage to push for improvements in the way our significant aid investment is spent, or to push for improvements to governance and the rule of law.
“Now is the opportunity to engage in genuine discussions with our regional neighbours, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia as well as Papua New Guinea, and to develop a truly region solution to the global refugee crisis.
“The price of the offshore detention on Manus is lost influence with the PNG Government, lost influence globally and now complicity in a scheme that the Supreme Court has ruled is illegal.”
Human rights lawyer Julian Burnside said he had had the PNG court decision confirmed by a number of sources.
He said his initial response was that it was “absolutely right” and he would be making further comment later.
Australian policy unchanged
A statement released by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Australia was not a party to the legal proceedings in the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea.
“It does not alter Australia’s border protection policies – they remain unchanged. No one who attempts to travel to Australia illegally by boat will settle in Australia,” Dutton said.
“The government will not allow a return to the chaos of the years of the Rudd-Gillard Labor governments when regional processing was initiated to deal with the overwhelming illegal arrivals of more than 50,000 people.
“The agreement with Papua New Guinea to establish the Manus Island RPC was negotiated by the Labor government.
“Those in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre found to be refugees are able to resettle in Papua New Guinea.Those found not to be refugees should return to their country of origin.”