Refugees’ class action dismissed

The Supreme Court has dismissed an application by 730 individuals seeking claim for compensation and resettlement in a third country after they were brought to PNG by Australia in 2013.

Ben Lomai, who acts for the 730 applicants, said his clients now have two options, either to file a case in the National Court seeking damages or file a slip rule application.

They believe the Supreme Court made an error.

The group of refugees and asylum seekers, led by Behrouz Boochani on 7 November, 2016, filed an application for the enforcement of their constitutional rights (section 57 of the Constitution) and unlawful transfer and detention in Manus, after the Supreme Court ruled on 26 April, 2016, that their detention since 2013 was unlawful.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench on Tuesday (Oct 23) dismissed the entire claim, which involved the refugees and asylum seekers’ claims for damages for past breaches of their constitutional rights.

It was dismissed after Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Rimbink Pato, asked the court to dismiss the entire proceeding.

They were seeking declarations that their constitutional rights under section 37(1), protection of the law, and Liberty of the person, under section 42(1), 42(2) and 42(5) of the constitution were breached when they were brought into the country and detained illegally.

The court found that there is no provision under order 6, rule 3 nor under any other provision of order 6 of the Supreme Court rules that permits a claim for damages to be made in a constitutional enforcement application, instituted under section 57 (Enforcement of guaranteed rights and freedom) of the constitution.

(Filepic of refugees inside Lombrum, Manus Province)

Sally Pokiton