Following an urgent hearing of an application from refugee advocates in Australia, the High Court in Austrlia has refused to allow the Australian Government to hand over the 153 Eezham Tamil refugees to Sri Lankan authorities, delivering an interim injunction until Tuesday afternoon, news reports from Australia said Monday. The latest development comes following a controversial move by the Australian authorities that handed over 41 asylum seekers back to the Sri Lankan military after the so-called processing of their asylum applications at the sea.
Lawyer George Newhouse, representing 48 refugees of the boat has told Guardian Australia that Justice Crennan has granted an injunction until 4pm Tuesday.
The 153 Eezham Tamil refugees, who had set off from the coast of Tamil Nadu, have been detained on board a Customs ship after their boat was intercepted off Christmas Island a few days ago.
Several persons among the 153 asylum seekers had fled the island after being subjected to torture and repeated threat at the hands of the occupying Sri Lankan military.
The interim injunction will be in place until the High Court will be hearing the case, news reports from Australia further said.
In the meantime, 53 law scholars from 17 Australian universities have demanded a legal explanation from the Austrlian Government on the controversial move of detention and handing over asylum seekers at mid-sea.
“Holding asylum seekers on boats in this manner also amounts to incommunicado detention without judicial scrutiny,“ they said in a statement.
The move willl breach Australia’s obligations under international refugee and human rights law, including the 1951 Refugees Convention, 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, they further said.
In the meantime, Tamil rights activists in the island alleged that the Sri Lankan military intelligence was behind the boat with 41 ‘asylum seekers’. Strangely, 37 of them were Sinhalese and all of them were men. The move was intended to give an opening to the Australian military to deport the asylum seekers at mid sea, the Tamil activists said alleging a ‘military-to-military’ relationship between the Australian and the Sri Lankan military.
Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has issued a statement on the handover over 41 people to the Sri Lankan military. In the statement he said: “Just one of the 41 people on board was assessed as possibly having a case for asylum, and was given the option of being transferred to Australia’s detention camps in the South Pacific island nations of Nauru or Papua New Guinea for further processing.” The asylum seeker opted instead to return to Sri Lanka, Morrison further said in his statement.