5 Oct 2015

Asylum seekers on Nauru to be processed within week

8:34 pm on 5 October 2015

The Australian government has welcomed the unexpcted news that Nauru will move to process all remaining asylum seekers.

Protesting asylum seekers on Nauru.

Refugees protesting on Nauru earlier this year Photo: Supplied

Refugees will be among those helping to resettle the remaining 600 asylum seekers in the Nauru immigration detention centre, according to a statement issued by the Nauru government.

Nauru's government has promised to process all asylum seekers in its offshore detention centre still awaiting an outcome on their application for refugee status "within the next week".

The decision comes just days before a legal challenge examining the Australian Government's role in the centre's operation.

The full bench of the High Court is scheduled to hear a challenge to the lawfulness of the Government's role in offshore detention on Nauru on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the Human Rights Law Centre's director of legal advocacy Daniel Webb.

Mr Webb told the ABC that the announcements were "quite clearly connected".

"These announcements come more than three years after the first person was locked up on Nauru, but less than two days before the highest court in the country is due to access the lawfulness of that detention," he said.

Mr Webb said that the hearings would still take place, and would question the legality of the Australian Government to be "underwriting and actively participating in the detention of people in other countries".

The president of the Refugee Council, Phil Glendenning, also said the hearings may have "provided some sort of impetus" for the development.

Mr Glendenning told the ABC he held grave concerns for the safety of asylum seekers if they remained on Nauru, adding that the Australian Government had a "very serious" responsibility to ensure their safety.

"For all intents and purposes, Australia is the architect of this," he said.

The Nauruan government will more than double the number of staff involved in dealing with claims to 320, to deal with the week-long timeframe.

Community liaison officers, including 30 people who have already been granted refugee status, will process the asylum seekers.

Nauru has also announced the centre will become an "open" facility 24 hours a day from today.

It means detainees will be free to move around the island.

Nauru's justice minister David Adeang said the Australian Government would provide support with "safety, security and law enforcement".

This will include increased assistance from Australian police, as well as increased health care and overseas medical referrals.

Mr Adeang said his government had been working towards a "more compassionate program" for a long time and had been waiting on confirmation of assistance from the Australian Government.

"The start of detention-free processing is a landmark day for Nauru," he said.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has welcomed the announcement, but is yet to provide detail on Australia's involvement.

In a statement, Mr Dutton said the Government had been funding service providers and deploying police officers, including two advisers.

He said that support would continue through funding of a contracted service provider.

- ABC

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