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Australia agrees to pay $70 million to Manus Island detainees

Posted June 13

The Australian government has agreed to pay detainees on Manus Island more than $70 million (US$52.75 million) in the "largest settlement in a human rights class-action" in the country's history.

More than 1,900 Manus Island detainees had alleged they suffered serious physical and psychological injuries during their time on the Papua New Guinea island.

Australian law firm Slater and Gordon, who represented the plaintiffs, confirmed Wednesday a deal had been struck with the government, although it had yet to be approved by the court.

35-year-old Iranian Majid Kamasaee, who was detained on the center for 11 months after fleeing Iran, was the lead plaintiff in the case.

"I came to Australia seeking peace but I was sent to Manus which was hell," Kamasaee said in a statement after the announcement.

"I was in pain every minute of every day and I cried every night until I had nothing left."

Australia has long been criticized for its offshore detention centers, including the one on Manus, where it has held hundreds of asylum seekers and refugees who have attempted to reach its shores.

As of April, 821 men were still detained by Australia on Manus Island. Almost a quarter of all those held by Australia have been in detention for more than two years.

Slater and Gordon principal lawyer Andrew Baker told reporters Wednesday the detainees on Manus Island no longer had to "suffer in silence."

"Most were fleeing religious persecution and violence and came to Australia seeking protection, only to be denied their basic human rights," he said.

The Australian government announced in August 2016 it would close the Manus Island center, although there has been no update on when exactly it might happen.

Developing story - more to come

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