Preparations are almost complete for the return of
children to detention on Christmas Island ahead of a High Court ruling that
human rights lawyers say could have significant ramifications for the future of
Australia’s offshore processing regime.
The High Court will on
Wednesday deliver its judgment in the case of a Bangladeshi woman who was
detained on Nauru but brought to Australia for medical treatment during the
last stages of her pregnancy. Hers is the lead case linked to a series of
challenges on behalf of 260 people who sought asylum in Australia by boat, were
subsequently detained on Nauru but are now living on the Australian mainland
after being brought here for urgent medical treatment or for mental health
There are 38 babies among them — some born in Australia — and the former
Nauru detainees are currently in Brisbane, Melbourne and Darwin. The case began
as a challenge to the lawfulness of the Australian government spending money on
offshore detention in a foreign country.
After the Abbott government passed
legislation that retrospectively gave it that authority, the case challenged
whether Australia had the constitutional power to detain people on foreign
soil. But two days before that hearing it was announced that the centre on
Nauru was now open and asylum-seekers who were sent there were free to move
around the Pacific Island.