January 21, 2013
Papua New Guinea’s opposition has launched a legal challenge to Australia’s asylum seeker processing centre on Manus Island.
After promising to launch a challenge, lawyers acting for opposition leader Belden Namah filed a summons with the National Court on Friday.
The summons seeks a declaration that the agreement between the PNG and Australian governments to establish the processing centre is unconstitutional because it authorises the deprivation of the asylum seekers’ personal liberty.
Last month, Mr Namah said people could only be detained for lengthy periods in PNG if they had broken the law.
He argued the asylum seekers on Manus Island had not broken any immigration laws so they should not be detained behind the centre’s high fences.
The summons asks the court to permanently restrain the PNG government from continuing to detain people at the centre.
It also seeks a temporary injunction preventing any more asylum seekers being sent to Manus Island while the case is heard.
The National Court is yet to set a date to hear the challenge.
Prime minister Peter O’Neill has said the detention centre is being run in accordance with PNG’s laws.
PNG’s attorney-general, Kerenga Kua, earlier this month added that asylum seekers had effectively consented to being held in a processing centre.
“When they left the shores of their own country, they understood fully well the kind of processing they would have to put through in order to be formally, officially approved as refugees,” he said.