A $70 million conditional settlement has today been reached in the landmark Manus Island detainees class action being run by Slater and Gordon Lawyers.
It has been said to be the largest human rights class action settlement in Australian legal history.
The case was brought on behalf of 1,905 detainees who were held at the Manus Island Detention Centre between 21 November 2012 and 12 May 2016.
The defendants to the proceeding were the Commonwealth of Australia and its contracted service providers G4S and Broadspectrum (formerly known as Transfield). Security provider Wilson Security was separately joined to the proceedings by G4S and Broadspectrum.
Slater and Gordon Principal Lawyer Andrew Baker said the settlement reflects the unquestionable importance of access to justice.
“The people detained on Manus Island have endured extremely hostile conditions, but they will no longer suffer in silence,” Mr Baker said.
“Most were fleeing religious persecution and violence and came to Australia seeking protection, only to be denied their basic human rights.
“The security issues at the Centre are well documented and culminated in the tragic, foreseeable and foreseen February 2014 attack on the Centre, where one detainee was killed and dozens of others were injured.
“We’ve heard from other detainees who also report experiencing wholly inadequate medical attention, evidenced by two men who died from medical complications that arose on Manus Island.
“This is not an environment that any person with another safe option would choose to live in.
“While no amount of money could fully recognise the terrible conditions the detainees endured, we hope today’s settlement can begin to provide them with an opportunity to help put this dark chapter of their lives behind them.”
Lead plaintiff Majid Kamasaee welcomed the settlement as a long overdue acknowledgement of the suffering endured by Manus Island detainees.
“This case is not just about me, it is about every person who has been trapped on Manus Island,” Mr Kamasaee said.
“I left my home in Iran in 2013 because of religious persecution and I came to Australia seeking peace, but I was sent to Manus, which was hell.”
“I was in pain every minute of every day and I cried every night until I had nothing left.
"The way we were treated at the Manus Island Detention Centre was degrading and cruel, but sadly, many of my friends are still there.
“Our voices have never been listened to, but today we are finally being heard and I hope everyone’s suffering can be over as quickly as possible.”
The defendants, the Commonwealth, G4S and Broadspectrum and third party Wilson Security have agreed to separately cover all of the legal fees associated with this class action.
The costs are expected to be more than $20 million, including disbursements, such as barrister and expert witness fees, and will be independently assessed and subject to the approval of the court. This is separate from the group members’ settlement amount.
Mr Baker said countless legal hurdles were overcome during legal proceedings.
“By sheer numbers, this is one of the largest class actions Slater and Gordon has ever run,” Mr Baker said.
“We have appeared in court more than 50 times, conducted more than 200 witness interviews and analysed more than 200,000 discovered documents.
“We dealt with 11 judgments resulting from 28 applications to the court, ranging from public interest immunity challenges, discovery orders and then class closure and common issues applications were thrown at us in the weeks leading up to the trial date.
Mr Baker also expressed gratitude to the many witnesses involved in the case.
“More than 70 witnesses came forward to give evidence in this action, despite numerous, complex confidentiality concerns,” Mr Baker said.
“This included doctors, health workers, security workers, social workers and of course, the detainees themselves.
“Reliving their experiences to provide evidence was incredibly traumatic, but crucial to this case, and we would like to pay tribute to the courage and strength of the Manus Island detainees.
“This was a long battle for social justice, but we hope that today’s result, and the three years of work preceding it, helps to ensure the voices of the Manus Island detainees have finally been heard.”
A settlement distribution scheme will be finalised in coming weeks and submitted to the Supreme Court of Victoria for approval. Lawyers from Slater and Gordon also expect to visit Manus Island shortly to explain the details to detainees in person.
People who were held at the Manus Island Detention Centre and would like to register or receive more information about the class action can contact Slater and Gordon at: email@example.com or via WhatsApp on +61 466 536 240.