Australia offers $17m payout to Indonesian children jailed as adults

Australia offers $17m payout to Indonesian children jailed as adults
  • PublishedOctober 7, 2023

More than 120 Indonesians who say Australia wrongly jailed them as adults – when in fact they were children – have settled a major class action suit.

The government has agreed to pay more than A$27m (£14m,$17m) to the victims, who were jailed and, in some cases, prosecuted as people smugglers.

At the time of their detention, some of the children were as young as 12.

It is the latest in a string of cases tied to the Australian government’s asylum seeker policies.

“It’s fair to say we’re delighted to have gotten this outcome… this has been 10 years in the making,” said Sam Tierney, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.

Most of the applicants involved in the class action suit were detained on Christmas Island or in Darwin between 2009 and 2012, after arriving in Australia on people-smuggling boats.

They say they were lured on to the boats as children by offers of highly paid work, unaware of their destination or that they would be used to transport asylum seekers.

Under Australian law at the time, any crew members of those boats found to be children should have been returned to their home countries – rather than face charges.

But authorities relied on a now-discredited wrist X-ray analysis to determine the children’s ages and jailed anyone they thought to be older than 18.

A landmark report by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2012 found numerous breaches of the boys’ rights and alleged their cases had been wrongly handled.

Mr Ali Jasmin – the lead claimant – also accused Australian officials involved in his case of negligence and racial discrimination.

The Australian government has settled several wrongful detention lawsuits in recent years.

In 2017, it agreed to pay out A$70m in compensation to nearly 1,700 refugees and asylum seekers for illegally holding them in dangerous conditions on Manus Island.

Five years later, it also settled a case involving an Iraqi asylum seeker who was found to have been unlawfully held for more than two years in an immigration detention centre with an A$350,000 payout.

Thursday’s settlement – which is not an admission of wrongdoing – is subject to a final approval by the Federal Court before it can be paid out.


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