Reports emerged that Australian immigration officials have been offering up to $25,000 to asylum seekers held on Manus Island to return to their home countries voluntarily. Meanwhile, officials allegedly forcibly removed at least one man from Manus Island this week. In related news, on 14 February a motion in the Australian Senate highlighting the UNHCR’s concerns over forced deportations from Manus Island was defeated. The UNHCR stated that no deportations should be occurring due to concerns over how claims were being processed.
After over two years of preparation, Slater and Gordon will launch a class action against Australia’s federal government in May on behalf of more than 1900 asylum seekers held on Manus Island. The law firm will claim that the detainees should be compensated for physical and psychological injuries as well as false imprisonment. Further, the Stanford International Human Rights Clinic announced that it would seek to take Australia to the International Criminal Court for its treatment of asylum seekers in offshore detention centres.
On an official visit to Australia, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe urged asylum seekers in Australian-run immigration detention centres to return to Sri Lanka. However, human rights lawyer Lakshan Dias warned against returning, saying that the situation in Sri Lanka was still dangerous. Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English reiterated his country’s offer to accept 150 asylum seekers from Australia’s offshore camps on Nauru and Manus Island.