Australia’s highest court will be ruling on the challenge on the legality of the controversial policy of sending asylum seekers to the small South Pacific nation of Nauru for long-term detention.
It is on behalf of a Bangladeshi asylum seeker who was brought from Nauru to Australia to access health care after serious pregnancy complications and is now being forcibly returned to the island with her infant that the case was presented to the court.
This case will test for the first time the backbone of its immigration policy whether Australia has the legal right to send asylum seekers to off shore detention. The high court hearing is set to last two days.
Last month Malcolm Turnbull, the new Australian Prime Minister, expressed concern over the conditions in camps but gave no indication of major policy change.
Australian government one after another has turned boats to Indonesia and sending those who make it to the country to detention in Manus Islands camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
The detention camps are said to be in very bad conditions with reports of systematic child abuse which have been criticized by the human rights groups.
On Monday, Nauru said that all the 600 asylum seekers will be allowed to move freely around the island and their asylum application processed this week. Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Nauru’s decision was not connected to the High Court challenge.
Asylum seekers have long been a contentious political issue in Australia, although it has never received anywhere near the number of refugees currently flooding into Europe as they flee conflict in the Middle East and North Africa.
Australia has defended its detention policy as necessary to stop deaths at sea.