Asylum seekers want compensation

Last updated 19:20 28/07/2014

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Asylum seekers brought to the Australian mainland will seek compensation after being detained at sea for three weeks.

The 157 asylum seekers, including 50 children, who were detained on a Customs ship, are now at the Curtin detention centre in Western Australia after being flown from Cocos Island on Sunday.

In a directions hearing on Monday, Justice Kenneth Hayne allowed lawyers for the asylum seekers to adjust their statement of claim to one of false imprisonment, with an application for compensation.

A High Court hearing to determine if the government had the power to intercept their boat and transport them somewhere other than Australia will now not be scheduled for next week.

Human rights lawyer and spokesman for the asylum seekers' legal team Hugh de Kretser said the case would still proceed, but on a more normal timeline.

''The main case which tests the legality of the government's  actions - whether it was legal or not to take these asylum seekers away from Australia, detain them at sea for a month - remains,'' de Kretser told reporters outside court.

He said the case was now about two things: was it illegal for the government to take people away from Australia and detain them for a month at sea and if so, should the asylum seekers receive compensation for that.

De Kretser said it was too early to say how much asylum seekers would be seeking.

It also emerged on Monday that 50 of the 157 asylum seekers are children.

The group's boat was intercepted 27km from Christmas Island on July 7.

Now on Cocos Islands, the asylum seekers will be interviewed by Indian consular officials to determine their nationalities.

India has agreed to take back any of its citizens who might be on board, and will consider taking back Indian residents who may be Sri Lankan citizens, Indian High Commissioner to Australia Biren Nanda said.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told Australian Broadcasting Corp. the asylum seekers did not risk persecution in India.

He described their passage to Australia as ‘‘an economic migration seeking to illegally enter Australia.’’

He would not say what would happen to asylum seekers who were rejected by India, but insists none will be resettled in Australia.

Sending them to detention camps in the Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru were options.

‘‘There are a very large number of people on this ship that had been resident in India for a very long time,’’ Morrison told ABC.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government has implemented a tough policy of turning back asylum seekers’ boats in a bid to stop a surge in the number of vessels trying to reach Australian shores.

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No asylum seeker has successfully reached Australia by boat this year.

- AP

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