6 May 2011

Australia's plans to reopen Manus asylum detention camp a step backwards, says lawyer

1:35 pm on 6 May 2011

A lawyer for former asylum seekers detained on Manus Island says plans by Australia to reopen its detention centre on the Papua New Guinea island are a step backwards.

The governments of Australia and PNG are reportedly finalising an agreement to re-establish the Manus facility.

It was a key element of the former Howard government's so-called Pacific Solution of processing asylum seekers before being closed in 2004.

Eric Vardalis represented the last asylum seeker to leave Manus Island, Aladdin Sisalem.

Mr Vardalis says the Palestinian's long and difficult vigil in detention was based on fear propagated about asylum seekers in the Australian public by the government.

"People don't seem to understand that a detention centre, no matter where it is, is like a jail. That's the whole intent: they deprive you of your freedom. And he was on this place, on his own with a whole complement of guards. I think from memory it was costing some thousands of dollars per day to keep him there."

Eric Vardalis