27 Jan 2004

Australia's child detention policy in Nauru to be tested in court

8:25 am on 27 January 2004

The Australian lawyer acting for asylum seekers on Nauru says he is taking the Australian government to court over its detention of children.

Eric Vadarlis says a high court in Canberra, with the full seven judges sitting, will hear his team's application early next month that it is unconstitutional for minors to be kept in detention.

More than 90 children have been kept in the camps on Nauru for two and a half years after their parents failed to gain refugee status.

Mr Vadarlis says the asylum seekers have nowhere to go because Afghanistan and Iran are now unsafe to return to.

"They really are in a Catch 22 position, an impossible position so it's not that easy to find a solution for them. The best thing, we believe, would be for them to be brought to Australia, processed as refugees and they're given accommodation accordingly."

Mr Vadarlis recently won the first stage of a battle in the Supreme court of Victoria when it ruled that a claim for damages by asylum seekers could proceed.

The Australian government had attempted to derail the case by claiming that the court had no authority to rule on matters relating to foreign citizens held on Nauru.

But, the judge says he will consider the issue of jurisdiction before making a final ruling.