A court in Papua New Guinea has ruled that a remote migrant detention center operated by Australia is illegal, adding to international criticism of the practice of confining asylum seekers on small Pacific islands.
Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court found that detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island breached the right to freedom of 850 people held there — half of them already determined to be refugees.
The five-member court ordered the Papua New Guinea and Australian governments to take immediate steps to remove migrants from the detention center, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Both countries are likely to adopt a system used in another Australian center in the Republic of Nauru, allowing detainees more access to local communities.
Australia’s refugee policy requires that anyone arriving on its shores by boat is sent to detention centers in Nauru or Manus Island, where officials process their asylum claims offshore.
Governments in Australia have largely enforced offshore detention since 2001, arguing it deters migrants from attempting a perilous and sometimes deadly journey from ports in Indonesia and elsewhere.
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the court’s decision wouldn’t alter border protection policies, promising that “no one who attempts to travel to Australia illegally by boat will settle in Australia”.
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