Australia's Decision to Bring Asylum Seekers Back to Mainland Casts Doubt on High Court Challenge

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Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were sent back by Australia wait to enter a magistrate's court in Galle
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. REUTERS/Stringer

The Australian government has decided to bring the 157 Tamil asylum seekers detained at sea on a customs boat back to the mainland.

Australia's stretch of six months without asylum seeker boats arriving in the mainland has come to an end as asylum seekers who were held in the Customs Ocean Protector for four weeks will finally be brought to the country.

According to reports, a SkyTraders Airbus A320 is scheduled to travel from Cocos Island to Australia's detention centre in Curtin on July 27. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed on July 25 at a press conference that 157 passengers will be aboard the plane going to Australia.

The minister said the Tamil asylum seekers will be taken to Australian mainland where Indian officials are expected to arrive and validate their identities. Morrison declared the asylum seekers were under "excellent care" with customs authorities. The refugees were picked up outside the Migration zone.

Morrison once again stressed that the government will "exhaust any and every measure" to keep asylum seekers from coming to Australia. Reports said immigration officials had tried to seek accommodation on Cocos Islands to oversee the transfer of asylum seekers.

Legal experts said the decision to bring the asylum seekers back to the mainland will "cast doubt" on the core elements of the High Court challenge.

The Curtin detention centre in Western Australia is known as one of the "harshest" detention centres in Australia because of its remote location.

After winning the election in September 2013, the Abbott government had vowed to stop asylum seeker boats coming from countries in Southeast Asia. According to reports, hundreds of people have died along the way in their rickety boats.

Under Australia's offshore detention policy, asylum seeker boats are being turned back to Indonesia while refugees are sent to Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing and resettlement.

Australia has been accused of breaking the international laws after authorities returned a group of asylum seekers to Sri Lanka. About group of 41 Sri Lankan asylum seekers had attempted to reach Australia by boat but did not succeed as they were intercepted and handed over the Sri Lankan navy.

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