Refugees and asylum seekers who will receive compensation for being illegally detained on Manus Island have said they are unhappy with the $70 million settlement as concerns are raised some may have difficulty accessing the money.
Victoria’s Supreme Court approved the settlement between the Australian government, detention centre manager Broadspectrum and security companies G4S and Wilson Security, to the 1923 men detained on Manus Island between 2012 and 2016.
So far, more than 1300 of the eligible men have registered with law firm Slater and Gordon to receive a share of the money, while 56 have asked for more time to opt out.
Iranian asylum seeker Naser Jafarzadeh registered to receive compensation.
“It’s better than nothing because we haven’t [any] rights,” he said.
“We came by boat and Australia hate us because we came by boat. Because we know we can’t do anything so we should accept this money and look in the future maybe somewhere else.”
The final individual payments will depend on how many men register to receive compensation, but rough estimates are between $30,000 and $40,000.
Detainees like Benham Moghimi said that was inadequate.
“They tortured me and they are still torturing me and the $70 million for me is not enough,” he said.
“Because so far 1300 registered and it means we will get less and less money, and it’s not enough for my future treatment, for my counselling, for whatever the Australian government has done to me these past four years.”
The detainees still in PNG expressed frustration the settlement was made while they remained unsure about what would ultimately happen to them.
“What will happen for my future?” Mr Moghimi said.
“No one knows. We are still in limbo.”
Asylum seekers unable to open bank accounts
Those men were also worried about how they would get their money.
The asylum seekers whose refugee determinations were rejected are not eligible to open a PNG bank account, while many of those found to be refugees are still waiting to be issued with identity documents.
Law firm Slater and Gordon, which represented the lead plaintiff in the compensation claim, said it would try to find other ways of sending the payments.
“Under the scheme, the administrator has broad powers to take any steps needed to effect payment to group members,” principal lawyer Andrew Baker said.
“This includes deposits into bank accounts, issuing of cheques or transferring money to nominated family members or trusted friends of group members.
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“The administrator can also arrange for money to be held in trust if group members believe they will be in a position to receive funds in the future.
“We are also discussing alternative options with group members as needed.”
The payments will be distributed once the court approves of the settlement distribution scheme and after a 28-day appeal period expires.