Lawyer Represents Asylum Seekers

By Vanessa Knight – EM TV, Port Moresby

The Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea is being challenged by a group of asylum seekers who say their detention is a breach of their constitutional rights.

The 25 asylum seekers were detained on suspicion of encouraging protests at the Australian-run detention centre on Manus Island in February. 

They are now being represented by human rights lawyer, Ben Lomai, who is preparing an application for release and seeking compensation for breaching their constitutional rights.

The lawyer is now in the province to obtain statements from his clients.

The asylum seekers involved are from Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Syria and Lebanon.

Ben Lomai, who was granted entry to the facilities by the Supreme Court, arrived in the province on Sunday with lawyer Greg Toop and a team of paralegals and support staff to interview and prepare affidavits to be filed in court.

Lomai told EM TV News that he will be preparing an application to release the detainees and seek redress for breach of their constitutional rights.

The team commenced their interviews on Monday at the East Lorengau Transit facility.

Lomai says they have spoken to 11 refugees so far, residing at the East Lorengau Transit Centre, who have been processed and are awaiting resettlement in PNG.

There are currently 1,004 asylum seekers detained at the Australian-run detention centre with reportedly more than 80 who have been processed, however only 11 are currently residing at the transit facility.

Due to limited time, Lomai says he does not expect to interview all refugees, however he will be asking the courts to grant him more time to return and finish interviewing the remaining refugees.

Mr Lomai said immigration officers including the Chief Migration Officer, their lawyers and staff on ground at the detention centre have been very helpful in terms of logistics, and hopes this continues for the duration of the period it takes to finish interviewing his clients.

The team of lawyers are expected to conclude their interviews on the 17th of this month, and appear before the Supreme Court in Port Moresby on 22 April, with their findings.

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