Australia [EN] The Sydney Morning Herald, Asylum seekers legally detained on Customs vessel, High Court rules

Translate into: FR IT
Article posted the 2015/02/13

[EN] The High Court has ruled : the Australian government acted legally when it detained 157 asylum seekers on a boat on the high seas for a month. But for lawyers, Australia should have taken them back on its territory or in Nauru. Australia is known for its  restrictive migration policy, as prove numerous cases of auto-mutilation of asylum seekers in Papua-New-Guinea.

Asylum seekers legally detained on Customs vessel: High Court rules

The Australian government acted legally when it detained 157 Tamil asylum seekers on the high seas for a month last year, the High Court has ruled.

In a 4-3 majority decision announced on Wednesday afternoon, the court found that the 157 asylum seekers were lawfully held by Australian authorities on the Customs vessel Ocean Protector and the asylum seekers, who are now in Nauru, were not entitled to any compensation.

Lawyers for the asylum seekers had argued during a two-day High Court hearing in October that the government could have sent the group straight to Australia or Nauru once they were rescued from their boat which had suffered a pump failure 16 nautical miles off Christmas Island on June 29.

According to the judgment, the Customs vessel then sailed to India – where the asylum seekers were believed to have departed from – under the direction of the national security committee of cabinet, which included then immigration minister Scott Morrison.

But there was no agreement that the asylum seekers would be able to disembark in India. The passengers were then detained for a “further period” until Mr Morrison decided that it was “not practicable” to discharge the asylum seekers, instead sending them to Cocos Island.

For four weeks the asylum seekers were detained on the boat where they were allowed only limited hours of daylight before eventually being transferred to the offshore processing centre in Nauru.

The boat was the first asylum seeker vessel to reach Australian shores in more than six months of the Abbott government’s hardline asylum seeker policy. At the time, Mr Morrison refused to acknowledge the existence of the boat.

In a press conference after the judgment, new Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the government’s actions had been “vindicated”.

“I am pleased with the result and obviously there’s a 157-page judgment that the government will now consider in detail,” Mr Dutton said.

It was also revealed on Wednesday that there had been 15 boat turnbacks during 2014.

The head of Operation Sovereign Borders, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, said some of these had occurred under the new minister’s watch, but would not specify how many.

He said not all of the returns had been to Indonesia and emphasised that the turn backs had taken “various forms”.

In its ruling the High Court said the detainment was lawful under the Migration Powers Act, which enables maritime officers to detain a person outside Australia.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the asylum seekers said while the result was “disappointing” the case had forced the government to be more transparent in its operations and “on water” matters.

“It took this case for the government to finally break its secrecy and confirm that it was detaining 157 people – including 50 children as young as one – on a boat somewhere on the high seas,” said Hugh de Krester from the Human Rights Law Centre.

“If it hadn’t been for this case, the Australian public may never have known what happened to those 157 people.”

A cost analysis by Fairfax Media showed the Abbott government’s failed attempt to return the asylum seekers to India cost taxpayers more than $12 million.


Link of the article: 


See also:



Date(s) of publication: 27/01/2015
Credits: Cronache di ordinario razzismo