The Australian government has agreed to pay more than $50 million to settle a lawsuit brought by nearly 2,000 asylum-seekers who claim to have suffered psychological and physical abuse while being held at a remote Pacific detention center.
The lawsuit was brought by 1,905 men were held at the Manus Island center in Papua New Guinea between 2012 and 2014. The group was seeking compensation from Australia and two private contractors who operated the center over the harsh conditions there, as well as false imprisonment after Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruled their detention was unconstitutional.
The Australian government and the contractors have also agreed to pay another $26 million in legal fees, but will not admit to liability.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton issued a statement calling the settlement “a prudent outcome for Australian taxpayers.” Lawyers for the plaintiffs say the money will be distributed according to length of their detention and the nature of their injuries.
Under a strict immigration policy, Australia blocks asylum-seekers from the Middle East, Africa and Asia from reaching its shores by boat, sending them to Manus Island and another center on the Pacific island nation of Nauru. The policy has come under fire from the United Nations and human rights groups over the indefinite detention of the refugees, who have reportedly suffered abuse and emotional issues.
Australia and the United States reached an agreement late last year, under which most of the detainees would be resettled in the U.S.