August 28, 2013
A High Court challenge to the government’s “PNG Solution” has been widened to claim the offshore processing plans of both sides of politics are unconstitutional.
Lawyers acting for an Iranian asylum seeker sent to Manus Island say the plan to process asylum seekers and resettle those found to be refugees on PNG and Nauru is also in breach of international law.
“We’ve amended and significantly broadened the pleadings to include a declaration that the power to process offshore is invalid because there isn’t power in the constitution to do such a thing,” Sydney solicitor Adrian Joel told Fairfax Media.
The expanded application was filed with the court on Tuesday and is expected to be listed for a directions hearing next week. The government has vowed to fight the action and expressed confidence that it will prevail.
Almost 500 asylum seekers have been sent to Nauru for processing and 419 are on Manus Island. The government has vowed to expand capacity on PNG to cover all who arrive by boat after the policy was announced on July 19, insisting none will end up in Australia.
A smaller group of 48 refugees remain in detention in Australia, deemed a threat by security agency ASIO and not permitted release.
Two men – both from Sri Lanka – were told this week the ASIO finding would not be overturned following a review by retired federal court judge Margaret Stone.
The United Nations last week issued a scathing report on the “arbitrary” practice of indefinite detention in Australia and is the subject of another High Court challenge.
Since the PNG announcement on July 19, 3026 asylum seekers have arrived in 43 boats. When lawyers filed their challenge last week, they claimed there was no evidence that PNG had a “fair and orderly” refugee and humanitarian program or the means to build one. They also accused the government of failing to take account of a submission from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that raised multiple concerns about the suitability of PNG for offshore processing.
“We’re saying the power to create a notice designating PNG and Nauru as places for processing is not a valid power,” Mr Joel said on Tuesday.
“So what we have now is a challenge to the existence of offshore operation in its totality. We haven’t abandoned or limited our previous grounds; we’ve just added new ones.”
The Coalition seized on the latest boat arrival to claim the Government was “all talk and no action”.
“Australians will have the chance at the election to stop the boats by electing a Coalition government,” opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said.
“Three more years of Labor will see three more years of boats and three more years of cost, chaos and tragedy on our borders.”