The class action is brought on behalf of all asylum seekers who have been detained on Christmas Island in the past three years and have suffered an injury or exacerbation of injury due to the Government’s failure to provide adequate health care.
It seeks compensation for injuries as well as Court orders that the government and the Minister for Immigration provide the medical care that injured asylum seekers require.
The lead plaintiff in the class action is a six-year-old girl “A.S.” who is the subject of a Supreme Court of Victoria pseudonym order to protect her identity. A.S. has been in detention for more than a year.
Since that time she has an ongoing dental infection, allergies, separation anxiety, bed wetting, has developed a stammer and is refusing food. She has been assessed by a child psychiatrist as having Post Traumatic Stress disorder.
Sister Brigid Arthur, a nun in the Brigidine congregation, is providing instructions as A.S.’s litigation guardian.
“I have been visiting people in detention and supporting them when they are released since 2001 and I’m convinced that detention is totally damaging for all people, especially for children. It is a form of gratuitous cruelty. I have seen children go from being bubbly and normal kids to being sad and unhealthy,” said Sister Brigid.
Jacob Varghese, Maurice Blackburn Principal, said:
“Our client in this case has had minimal care and treatment for significant health issues. She was separated from her mother for an extended period when she was taken to the mainland to have a baby. In combination with being detained for over a year and having medical and dental issues poorly treated, A.S. is an alarmingly sad and anxious child, with serious mental health issues.
“The government is robbing A.S. of her childhood. The government is robbing far too many kids of their childhoods.
“There is now a substantial body of evidence pointing to widespread failings for people in detention on Christmas Island including poor standard of health care and poor access to any specialist care.
“Too many asylum-seekers health are being severely compromised by being in detention. Doctors who have first-hand experience of what it is like there say services fall well short of standards the Australian community expects. Our claim alleges that the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection has failed in his duty of care to protect the health and wellbeing of asylum seekers held in detention on Christmas Island.
“The Minister and the government have a duty of care that cannot be delegated to agents such as security company Serco or International Health and Medical Services (IHMS).
“If that duty has been breached, as we allege, asylum seekers are entitled to compensation for the injuries and illnesses they have suffered as a result,” Mr Varghese said.
Maurice Blackburn’s Social Justice Practice is running the case on a pro bono basis.