20 Jun 2013

Lawyer fears for health of asylum seekers on Nauru after court decision

1:38 pm on 20 June 2013

The lawyer representing 12 asylum seekers in Nauru says he fears they will self-harm after they lost their bid for their detention to be ruled unconstitutional.

After the group was charged with rioting and wilful damage, the Australian human rights lawyer Julian Burnside lodged an application for habeas corpus, and argued the group was unlawfully detained under Nauru's constitution.

Judge John von Doussa QC ruled yesterday that under an exception, detention is lawful because they will ultimately be relocated to Australia or be returned to their own country.

Mr Burnside says it's no surprise asylum seekers are driven to self-harm when they are told they could be waiting for years.

"Most of the people being detained on Nauru are people who have suffered torture or trauma, people who have escaped persecution, people who have risked their lives to get to a place of safety and now they are told, in effect, you've got no hope. Now that's going to drive people crazy, that's why people start harming themselves."

Julian Burnside QC.