By Jill Fraser
A court case to decide the fate of 302 asylum seekers in an Australian-run processing center on Papua New Guinea's remote Manus island was dismissed Thursday due to a technicality regarding signatures, according to reports.
The full bench of the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court sat to consider whether asylum seekers and refugees in the center should be brought to Australia.
The lawyer representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Rimbink Pato and Chief Migration Officer Mataio Rabura moved that the application before a three-judge Supreme Court bench be dismissed, because the asylum seekers’ lawyer, Ben Lomai, had failed to comply with the Court's ruling regarding signatures.
The Australian Associated Press reported that the application for dismissal was a success as the application was solely signed by Lomai.
Retired Federal Court of Australia judge, Ron Merkel -- acting for the asylum seekers and assisted by Lomai -- told the court, however, that Lomai was given the asylum seekers' consent to sign and file the application on their behalf.
Two of the three judges ruled that the signature of the 302 asylum seekers, as applicants in the case, were required and the case was dismissed.
Australian barrister and human rights advocate Julian Burnside told Anadolu Agency on Thursday that the ruling “disfigured the PNG legal system”.
“No court with an ounce of common sense should dismiss such an important case on a technicality like that,” Burnside said.
“The lawyer for the plaintiffs had signed the application; the plaintiffs had all signed affidavits. Even if it was necessary for the plaintiffs to sign the application that technicality should not have been taken by the PNG government and would be overlooked by any court concerned with justice.”
In April, PNG’s Supreme Court determined the processing center on Manus Island to be illegal, meaning the detainees must be sent elsewhere.
Australia confirmed that the detention center would be closed, but offered no detail on the future of the 854 men held there.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton remains adamant that Australia won’t accept any refugees or asylum seekers from Manus for resettlement.
Australia has paid Cambodia $42 million to resettle refugees -- only two have been successfully resettled.
Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Ian Rintoul, who attended the PNG court hearing on Thursday, told Anadolu “the case will be re-filed with the 302 applicants’ signatures as soon as possible”.
He added that the Manus detainees were “distraught” following the court ruling.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.