The Irrawaddy reports "Seven Rohingya refugees from Burma held in a camp on a Pacific island have won a precedent-setting legal battle to have their applications for refugee status in Australia considered by the Canberra government.
The Australian government dropped its opposition to the Rohingyas’ case for recognition as asylum seekers in a ground-breaking decision at the Australian High Court on Thursday.
The Rohingyas’ lawyer, David Manne, of Australia’s Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, said in a phone interview with The Irrawaddy: “Our clients have got what they wanted and what they're entitled to under Australian law”.
The seven Rohingya refugees, he said, now had “the right to have their visa assessed according to long established Australian visa rules. So they've been vindicated and the government has conceded their case”.
The Rohingyas have been held in an offshore detention center in Nauru since last October, after beaching their boat on Ashmore Reef, off the northwest Australian coast two months earlier.
Under a widely criticised Australian policy called the “Pacific Solution,” asylum seekers who are caught attempting to enter Australia illegally by boat are detained at offshore detention centers such as Nauru. According to Amnesty International, Australia's offshore detention centers “severely restrict and in some cases prohibit asylum seekers from access to basic needs and rights”.
The Rohingyas on Nauru applied on October 15, 2006 for refugee status visas, but Australian authorities refused to accept their applications.
Manne said immigration officials tried to persuade them to make for Malaysia, where they “are not granted any form of status and are treated as illegal immigrants by Malaysian police and local militia, and are repeatedly arrested, detained and deported, as well as being subjected to physical and psychological abuse and mistreatment of a serious nature.”
Manne said the Australian government had tried to “dodge its legal obligations by seeking to impose a refugee assessment process on them that was fundamentally inferior, had no legal basis, no legal accountability or safeguards at all under any legal system, let alone the Australian one”.
Manne said he was seriously concerned about the well-being of asylum seekers detained in Nauru. “Everyday in Nauru is another day of damage to them. They remain in an extremely precarious situation lessening their ability to rebuild their shattered lives.
“[Living in] limbo in Nauru has been taking a serous toll on their health, causes profound damage and compounds their trauma. It is absolutely fundamental that there is a prompt processing of their case.”
As yet more victims of the Pacific Solution establish their bona fides as refugees the Australian Government continues its callous disregard for the human rights of people caught up in this appalling processing system.