Class Action Fails For Families Of Asylum Seekers Killed In 2010 Boat Crash

Families of asylum seekers who were killed in the 2010 Christmas Island boat crash have lost their class action lawsuit against the Federal Government, ABC news reports.

The boat, known as the SIEV 221, smashed onto rocks at Christmas Island in December 2010. The tragedy claimed the lives of fifty Iraqi and Iranian refugees attempting to seek asylum in Australia. Due to harsh weather conditions at the time, the boat was not detected by national authorities and was instead identified by residents on the island.

Many of the victims’ families banded together to seek compensation for their loss. In 2011, they attempted to sue the Federal Government on the basis that the Commonwealth acted negligently in failing to rescue those stranded on the boat.

On September 13th, 2017, these families received the unfortunate news that their class action had failed. In a New South Wales Supreme Court ruling, the judges found that the government had no control over the boat nor the weather and thus could not be responsible for the tragedy that eventuated. 

Christmas Island has faced its fair share of scrutiny since its opening in late 2006, with many refugees claiming to have experienced physical and psychological abuse during their time at the offshore detention centre. The detention centre, which once held almost 3000 refugees, now contains under 30 asylum seekers. The centre is set to close next year, with refugees expected to be relocated to a temporary transit centre in Lorengau and eventually settled in Papua New Guinea.

The future of many refugees, from both the Manus Island and Christmas Island detention centres, seems bleak and uncertain. These asylum seekers do not have the option to settle amongst the Australian community and will either be deported to Papua New Guinea or otherwise forced to return to their country of origin. Some refugees may also have the option of resettling in the United States if they pass the “extreme vetting” process in the US.

Whilst many asylum seekers are refusing to accept this fate, the Federal Government has announced that the closure of both detention centres is imminent and inevitable. Compounds are expected to be cleared and locked, with the electricity being shut off almost immediately.

An Iranian refugee, Behrouz Boochani, voiced the disappointment of a number of asylum seekers. “I am sure the refugees will resist and they will have to use force, I think there will be a big riot,” he said.

While the government considers the closures a great success, asylum seekers from both Manus Island and Christmas Island can’t help but agonize over their future and the uncertainty of their fate.

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