1 Sep 2005

Australian High Court upholds Nauru visa system for detaining asylum seekers

7:00 pm on 1 September 2005

A lawyer representing asylum seekers on Nauru has described the Australian government's handling of their bid for protection as inhumane.

Eric Vardalis made the comments following a decision in Australia's High Court to uphold Nauru's visa system for detaining asylum seekers on Australia's behalf.

The court said that Nauru could issue special-purpose visas to the asylum seekers taken to the island after being rescued from the Norwegian ship Tampa in 2001.

The visas restricted the asylum seekers, who reportedly numbered over 1200 at one stage, to two detention centres on the island.

Mr Vardalis questions why 26 still remain in detention against their own volition, when up to 95 percent of the asylum seekers since 2001 have been granted refugee status anyway.

"And the real question is why not give them protection as well? Why wait four years to do it? The Australian government attitude is - we know, basically that you're a refugee, we'll do it slowly, we'll make you pay, and we'll use you as an example to the other people that are thinking of coming to this country not to even bother because Australia's doors are closed, and if you're a refugee, basically we don't care. That's just inhumane."

Melbourne lawyer Eric Vardalis.