Asylum Seekers Demand Compensation From Australia for Neglect and Poor Healthcare

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By Reissa Su | August 27, 2014 1:54 PM EST

Asylum seekers held in Australia-run detention centre on Christmas Island have sued the Abbott government for poor health care. The injured, pregnant and sick asylum seekers have accused the government of neglect and demanded compensation for years of "neglect" as their condition worsened while in detention.

REUTERS/Stringer
Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were sent back by Australia cover their faces as they wait to enter a magistrate's court in the southern port district of Galle July 8, 2014.

Reports said asylum seekers have sought an order for them to be transported out of Christmas Island to a place where they can receive appropriate care.

Asylum seekers claim Australian authorities "destroyed" the existing medication they had when they were sent to detention centres. A class action was filed on behalf of the asylum seekers at the Victorian Supreme Court yesterday, Aug. 26.

The Victorian government said Immigration Minister Scott Morrison had three weeks to submit a response to the allegations.

Jacob Varghese, the Maurice Blackburn principal speaking on behalf of the asylum seekers, declared that there was substantial proof of widespread neglect of the detainees on Christmas Island.  He said the Australian government was not responsible in looking after the welfare of asylum seekers, while under its care.

Varghese said many asylum seekers have compromised their health while remaining in detention centres. He added that Christmas Island was in the "grips of a mental health crisis" and cited the 11 suicide attempts that occured while in the centre.

Reports said the lead plaintiff in the asylum seeker case is a girl, 6, known only as AS. Her statement revealed she continues to suffer from allergies, dental infection and separation anxiety. The child's litigation guardian, Sister Brigid Arthur, said that children's health deteriorates rapidly while in detention.

She said Australia is only subjecting asylum seekers to another traumatic experience. The refugees sought asylum in the first place to escape whatever happened to them in their homeland.

Varghese revealed AS had developed a stammer and refused to eat while in detention. Doctors have diagnosed her as having post-traumatic stress disorder. The lawyer said Australia was "robbing AS of her childhood."

Under Australia's tough immigration policy, asylum seekers that have arrived since July 2013 were detained in offshore processing centres on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island and Nauru in the Pacific. According to official data, about 2,273 asylum seekers will be resettled in those countries if refugee claims are declared valid. 

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(Photo: REUTERS/Stringer / )
Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were sent back by Australia cover their faces as they wait to enter a magistrate's court in the southern port district of Galle July 8, 2014.
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