17 Dec 2003

Australian government faces court action over Nauru detention policy

11:48 am on 17 December 2003

The Chairman of Austcare Refugee Week has described the Australian government as callous for the way it treats asylum seekers on Nauru.

Uri Themal says it is outrageous that the Australian government had said it won't succumb to what it has labelled the blackmail of the hunger strike.

25 failed asylum seekers are on a hunger strike, with six of them now in hospital care, in protest against their detention.

Mr Themal says Australian troops are sent to bring democracy to troubled countries, but lock up indefinitely those who managed to escape these same countries in Pacific hell-holes in defiance of all international human rights instruments.

Lawyers have lodged a writ in the Supreme Court of Victoria, alleging the asylum seekers on Nauru are being falsely imprisoned.

A Melbourne solicitor, Eric Vadarlis, is seeking the release of about 290 detainees and claiming unspecified damages on their behalf.

"We are going to argue the way that the setup has been put in place that it is an Australian version of Guantanamo Bay where the government has taken over a portion of Nauru and having installed their detention centre in the same way the United States government has taken over parts of Cuba."

The writ seeks an injunction to stop the federal government detaining the asylum seekers and includes a claim for unspecified damages.