Thursday, January 29, 2015

Australia Declares Detention of 157 Illegal Immigrants on High Seas Legal


SYDNEY – The Australian High Court on Wednesday declared legal the detention of 157 illegal immigrants intercepted by the authorities last year on the high seas.

The immigrants from Sri Lanka were trying to reach the coasts of Australia to seek asylum.

The court ruled that those affected, including some 50 children, had no right to claim compensation for damages, the local television channel ABC reported.

According to the account of some of the immigrants of the Tamil ethnic group, they were forced to flee their country to a refugee camp in India where in July they boarded a boat headed for Australia.

However, the Australian authorities intercepted the vessel about 27 kilometers (17 miles) from Christmas Island on July 7 and held them for weeks in international waters before moving them to a detention center on the island nation of Nauru.

Immigrant lawyers argued that this arrest outside Australian territory was illegal and breached international regulations.

The treatment meted out to the asylum seekers on board the vessel was also considered to be inhuman and cruel.

The United Nations and human rights organizations have criticized Australia for its immigration policy which includes mandatory detention of asylum applicants, mainly in third countries, and their relocation after being recognized as refugees outside its territory.

The Manus detention center in Papua New Guinea this month was the scene of a hunger strike by about 600 asylum seekers as part of a protest against the relocation of some of the inmates.

Papuan Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said on Tuesday that the majority of asylum seekers detained in Manus will be repatriated to their countries within weeks and said that many of them are not genuine political refugees.

“It is our belief that most of the refugees are not genuine (...) I think many of them are just after economic opportunities that Australia and other countries offer to them and that is why they are seeking refugee status,” O’Neill told ABC.

Many of the immigrants who travel to Australia have fled from countries or regions in conflict such as Afghanistan, Darfur, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria, and there are others who have escaped discrimination or the status of stateless persons such as the Rohingya minority from Myanmar, or the Bidoon people from the Gulf region.


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