Australia's controversial policy of locking up asylum seekers is back in the spotlight with a six-year-old girl suing the government for negligence after being detained for more than a year at a remote detention centre.The class-action lawsuit was filed in the Victorian Supreme Court on behalf of the girl known only as "AS", who can't be named for legal reasons.
Maurice Blackburn, the legal firm representing the child, alleged the government failed to provide an adequate standard of medical and general care to AS and other detainees at the centre on Christmas Island - an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean about 2,500km from the continent. It is seeking compensation as well as a court directive ordering the government to give proper care.This boat carrying about 150 suspected asylum seekers later capsized near Australia's Christmas Island in 2012 [Reuters]
Lawyer Katie Robertson told Al Jazeera that AS is suffering both psychological and physical injuries from her time in detention.
"She is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, bed-wetting, stammering - which is believed to have stemmed from separation anxiety caused when her mother, who was pregnant, was taken to Darwin shortly after they arrived by boat.She also had a dental infection that went on for about three months and we believe was not adequately addressed."
As a class-action lawsuit, the case is open to any asylum seeker who claims to have suffered injury or had an injury exacerbated by the authorities' failure to provide adequate care at the Christmas Island detention centre over the last three years, potentially opening up the government to thousands of compensation claims.
"You're dealing with a population that are in most cases arriving in Australia with fairly significant psychological problems from the persecution they fled, and then to be placing them in this further vulnerable situation is inexcusable.Obviously monetary compensation can never adequately address what these people have gone through. If you think about AS, she is a child who has already spent over a year of her childhood in a remote detention centre, over two-and-half thousand kilometres from the Australian mainland. It's extremely damaging."