Asylum seekers who were injured, pregnant or ill while in
detention on Christmas Island are suing the federal
government for neglecting to provide proper medical care.
They say the government and Immigration Minister Scott
Morrison should compensate any asylum seeker who was injured,
pregnant or had an existing condition made worse while
detained on Christmas Island over the past three years.
They're also seeking an order that asylum seekers be removed
from Christmas Island so they can receive appropriate medical
They say the government has failed to keep track of the
medical needs of asylum seekers or ensure adequate medication
It also destroyed medicine asylum seekers had in their
possession when they arrived in Australia without recording
who had what, according to the class action filed with the
Victorian Supreme Court yesterday.
The government and Mr Morrison have three weeks to respond to
Comment is being sought from Mr Morrison.
Maurice Blackburn principal Jacob Varghese, who is acting for
the asylum seekers, said there is a substantial body of
evidence pointing to widespread failings for people in
detention on Christmas Island.
"When you take responsibility for other human beings'
circumstances the way the Commonwealth has taken charge of
asylum seekers' entire lives, you take on board a host of
responsibilities to make sure they're cared for, and we're
alleging that's been breached," Mr Varghese said.
He said the health of too many asylum seekers is "being
severely compromised by being in detention".
Christmas Island is in the grips of a mental health crisis,
he said, and he was aware of 11 suicide attempts there.
Maurice Blackburn estimates there could be thousands of
potential claimants, including former detainees and children.
The lead plaintiff in the class action is a six-year-old
girl, known only as AS, who has suffered ongoing dental
infection, allergies, separation anxiety and bed-wetting.
Sister Brigid Arthur, who is acting as AS's litigation
guardian, said children who are kept in detention deteriorate
"What we are doing on the whole is re-traumatising people who
have already been traumatised somewhere else in the world,
and that is cruel at the very least," Sr Arthur said.
Mr Varghese said because of the poor standard of medical
care, things that would be trivial on the mainland, such as
dental problems, become major issues on Christmas Island.