Forty people currently held in the Manus Island detention centre may be brought to Australia to testify in a class action trial being live streamed around the world.
The class action group’s lawyers want the Australian government to bring the 41 detainees from Manus Island to Melbourne and otherwise may ask for a hearing in Papua New Guinea.
The government has agreed that eight people currently in detention centres in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Western Australia will give evidence in the Melbourne court.
The class action led by Iranian-born Majid Karami Kamasaee has 1905 group members, which the plaintiff’s lawyers Slater and Gordon says covers the majority of people detained on Manus Island since 2012.
The detainees’ barrister David Curtain QC on Friday said the detainees who remain on Manus Island should be brought to Melbourne.
Mr Curtain said the fallback position was that the Victorian Supreme Court will be asked to journey to Manus Island.
“We are keen that if the Commonwealth can arrange for detainees in Australia to be brought to the court, we believe they can arrange for detainees on Manus Island to also be brought to the court,” he said.
The court heard it was not known how many of the detainees could potentially be resettled in the US as part of a deal between the Australian and American governments.
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“Presumably a proportion at least of those 41 will be interviewed by representatives of the United States government with a view to possible relocation to the United States,” Justice Michael McDonald said.
Justice McDonald said it is up to the plaintiff if there is to be an application for the court to convene in PNG to hear from the Manus Island detainees.
He noted that holding a hearing on Manus Island would depend on issues such as the available facilities, accommodation for a large cohort of people and the costs involved.
The six-month trial begins on May 15 and the Manus Island detainee witnesses are not expected to give evidence until August.
The trial will be live streamed so all 1905 class action group members can follow the case, in what Slater and Gordon believes is the first time Australian court proceedings will be streamed overseas.
The legal firm has said the case will be the largest and most forensic public examination of the events and conditions at the Manus Island detention centre, which is due to close on October 31.
The class action alleges the detainees suffered serious physical and psychological injuries as a result of the conditions in which they were held on Manus Island.
They are also seeking damages for false imprisonment after the PNG Supreme Court ruled the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island was unconstitutional.