157 asylum seekers to be transferred to Australian mainland


The Australian government’s stretch of six months without an asylum seeker boat passenger arriving in Australia is set to end, as 157 Tamils who have spent four weeks in limbo aboard the Customs Ocean Protector will be brought to the Australian mainland on Saturday.

Fairfax Media understands a SkyTraders Airbus 8320 has been booked to travel from Cocos Island to Curtin detention centre in north Western Australia on Saturday.

A source said immigration officials had also tried to book accommodation on Cocos Islands on Saturday to facilitate the transfer and flight for the asylum seekers.

According to the Guardian Australia, the customs boat is currently on its way to Cocos Island. The 157 asylum seekers were intercepted by Australian officials on June 28.

If the passengers are bought to the Australian mainland, lawyers say it casts doubt over whether core elements the High Court challenge can proceed before the court.

The case was to be the first comprehensive test of whether the government has the power to intercept boats on the high seas.

The case, which was due to continue on August 5, would have also tested whether the Australian government had the right to hold asylum seekers against their will and take them where it chooses.

"The situation remains very unclear, but if people were bought to the mainland, this would clearly involve the government conceding on key aspects of the High Court challenge," human rights lawyer David Manne said.

"This includes whether or not the government has the power to intercept and then send people to a place where they may be at risk of being persecuted."

The Curtin Detention centre is widely been considered to be one of the harshest detention centres on the Australian mainland due to its remote location.

"It’s a very remote centre, it’s very difficult for people outside the department to visit," said Caroline Fleay, senior lecturer at the Centre for Human Rights Education at Curtin University.

Dr. Fleay said it would also be extremely difficult for the asylum seekers to gain medical or legal help once they are in the centre.

Curtin has been earmarked by the government for closure next year. (The Sydney Morning Herald)



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