All eyes on Aus and PNG govts after court ruling

6:09 pm on 27 April 2016

The contractor managing Australia's detention centre for asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea says it's waiting on guidance from both governments after its operations were found to be illegal.

Yesterday, PNG's Supreme Court ruled Australia's regional processing centre on PNG's Manus island was illegal because it amounted to holding people against their will.

A five-judge bench ordered the PNG and Australian governments to immediately take steps to end the detention of 850 asylum seekers and refugees in the centre.

Detainees on Manus Island

Detainees on Manus Island Photo: AAP

However, in the wake of the ruling Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said detainees on Manus would not be brought back to Australia.

Even though Australia has sent them to Manus, Mr Dutton said it was not Australia's responsibility to resettle the people who had been held against their will.

He claimed his government had contingency planning in place for all sorts of eventualities.

Meanwhile, in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, the contractor, Broadspectrum, said it noted the PNG court ruling.

Broadspectrum, formerly known as Transfield Services, said it was awaiting further guidance from the centre operator, PNG Immigration, as well as the company's client, Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

It said it would update the market on any impact the decision might have on the company as soon as this becomes known.

Broadspectrum, which recently announced its profits had tripled, also runs Australia's offshore processing centre on Nauru

Manus plan always flawed

An Australian lawyer and Jesuit priest says Australia's asylum seeker policy is unethical and was always legally flawed.

Father Frank Brennan from the Australian Catholic University said Peter Dutton has simply been echoing former prime ministers Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd, to try and convince Australians that the refugees can be resettled offshore.

"Now everyone at the time knew that that was quite fanciful, that it was simply done for the electoral environment in Australia," he said.

"And now that it's been shown to be illegal and unconstitutional I think it's necessary for Australia and its political leaders to front the reality."

Frank Brennan said Papua New Guinea would be left with a massive damages bill now that 850 refugees were found to have been held illegally for around three years on the island.

The Manus Island Detention Centre in PNG

Staff accommodation block at Manus Island Detention Centre in PNG Photo: EMTV

Prison island

One of those who has been detained on Manus, the Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani, has welcomed the Supreme Court decision.

He referred to the Manus offshore centre as a prison, but said he and the other detainees were celebrating the ruling which appeared to pave the way for them to be able to leave the island.

Australia, Mr Booochani said "must close their Guantanamo" where he and other detainees had suffered torture and humiliation.

"They wanted to break our personality and take our humanity," he said.

"They treat us like animals and criminals. I wonder how a western country like Australia can make a prison under a systematic torture."

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Photo: AAP

Behrouz Boochani fled Iran in early 2013 amid a crackdown on Kurdish journalists by authorities.

He is considered a political prisoner by the global association of writers, PEN.

Mr Boochani said he is proud of all his fellow detainees on Manus for surviving thus far.

This month, PNG Immigration said 481 detainees on Manus had been found to be refugees - another 465 asylum seekers were still having their claims assessed.

The detainees on Manus have this afternoon been read the Supreme Court ruling by Immigration officials.

Immigration has told them that the government needs some time to comprehend the full details of the court ruling before deciding on its response.

Manus MP wants guards to return to face justice

PNG's local MP for Manus Island said foreign security guards suspected in murder and rape cases in and around the offshore centre should still be extradited to PNG for trial.

Three Australian guards are accused of raping another employee at the Australian-run centre, while another Australian and a New Zealand guard are suspects in the Reza Barati murder that has already seen two PNG men found guilty.

An asylum-seeker holds a picture of Reza Barati who died at the detention centre.

An asylum-seeker holds a picture of Reza Barati who died at the detention centre. Photo: AAP

The MP, Ronnie Knight, said he didn't want the centre's imminent closure to mark an end to these cases.

"We also don't want other things swept under the table," he said, "like the outstanding rape allegations against three of the Wilson Security expatriates that were flown back to Australia before they could face justice, and the two other expatriates, the Australian and New Zealander wanted for the murder of Reza Berati.

"We would want all of them extradicted back to Papua New Guinea and to face justice as well."

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