International: $70 Million Resettlement Deal for Manus Island Detainees Approved

A compensation deal worth $70 million for over 1,300 current and former Manus Island detainees has been approved by Victoria’s Supreme Court.

The class action settlement, reached with Australia’s federal government and the Island’s Regional Processing Centre operators, sought to compensate the detainees for the illegal detention and negligence in housing and protection.

“I am comfortably satisfied that a figure of $70 million to be distributed without deduction of costs amongst participating group members is a fair and reasonable sum,” said Justice Cameron Macaulay on Wednesday.

“[We wanted] to put an end to this fiction the Commonwealth seeks to maintain for political purposes that it’s PNG [that] holds these people, that PNG has the duty of care for these people,” said Rory Walsh of Slater and Gordon, the firm who led the legal action.

“The Commonwealth settled this case and paid $70 million not to have that fiction tested in court.”

Out of 1,923 former and current detainees who are eligible for the compensation, 1,383 have registered to get their share by Monday.

However, more than 160 detainees have objected to the compensation amount, saying that it would not address the plights of those who remained in the Island. About 800 men are expected to remain at Manus Island after the detention centre closes next month.

“Getting that money is not the issue. It is not the matter of the amount of money,” Iranian refugee Amir Taghinia told ABC’s AM.

“We are still in the same situation, we are still suffering from the same conditions, under the cruel regime of the defendant, and the case is finished, the case says ‘yeah, that’s it, it is already settled’ … It is absolutely not in favour of any of the detainees in here, but it is in favour of the law firm and the defendant.”

National: Trump’s Presidency Might Disrupt Australia-US Refugee Resettlement Deal

The election of Donald Trump into US presidency could overturn the Australia-US refugee resettlement deal, experts say.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that refugees on Nauru and Manus Island would be relocated to the US through a one-off deal.

Under the deal, refugees who do not accept resettlement to the US would be sent to Nauru and provided a 20-year visa to stay or return to their origin country.

However, concerns arise that Trump might not keep the agreement when he takes office in January.

“In all likelihood, the only way it’s going to happen is if the refugees are transferred to the US before inauguration day [January 20],” Niels Frenzen, immigration clinic director at the University of Southern California school of law told Radio National.

“If the US has not already begun its own vetting or so-called background checks until now, if you look at the time the US has taken to vet Syrian refugees … it’s unlikely that that could be accomplished in a few months.”

Mark Krikorian, the executive director at the Centre for Immigration Studies said Trump, whose policies contradicts the agreement, might not keep the deal.

“We [America] have a good relationship with Australia — one of our closest allies in the world,” Krikorian said.

“If this were a unique situation that there was no way for Australia to deal with, I could see extending them a helping hand, but this is just a matter of shipping these illegal immigrants to the United States.”

Both Krikorian and Frenzen suggest that the resettlement could be finished before January 20 under several conditions.

Frenzen said refugees could be settled before Trump’s inauguration if vetting had been “ongoing” and the US had been negotiating with Australia since January.

Krikorian also suggested that President Barack Obama might accelerate the processing period, as he had previously sped up the assessment of Syrian refugees from 18-24 months to only three months.

“It’s entirely possible the administration will rush the admission of the illegal immigrants you all have offshore in order to get them in under the wire before January 20 when Trump becomes president,” said Krikorian.