High Court to rule on legality of Nauru detention

Nauru Detention Centre. Photo AAP

Nauru Detention Centre. Photo AAP

CANBERRA –  [AAP] Scores of asylum seeker families might be sent back to Nauru if a High Court challenge against the legality of Australia’s involvement in the immigration detention centre there fails.

The court will hand down its ruling on Wednesday.

The test case focused on the plight of a Bangladeshi pregnant asylum seeker brought to Australia from Nauru because of serious health complications.

She is now facing return to the Pacific island with her one-year-old child.

The ruling will have implications for more than 267 people including 37 babies and 54 older children who were brought to Australia for medical treatment.

Of the 54 children, 36 are attending Australian schools.

The Commonwealth’s case in part hinged on a sudden decision last October by the Nauru government to allow asylum seekers to roam around the island at will.

That policy change means the woman, if returned, would not be detained, Commonwealth lawyers argued.

The federal government, with Labor’s support, retrospectively changed laws to shore up the Commonwealth’s ability to pay for the offshore facilities.

The Human Rights Law Centre ran the legal challenge and says the government shifted the goal posts.

‘The legality is complex but the morality is simple – it would be fundamentally wrong for the government to condemn these families to a life in limbo on Nauru,’ spokesman Daniel Webb said.

Asylum seekers on Nauru are expected to hold a protest rally on the island to coincide with the court ruling.

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