Australia’s high court has rejected a challenge to the country’s practice of holding asylum-seekers at a camp on Nauru, the Pacific island nation, a decision that paves the way for the return of more than 250 people—including dozens of babies—who are now in Australia.
At issue is a case brought by the Human Rights Law Center (HRLC) on behalf of a Bangladeshi woman who entered Australia by sea. She was detained by Australian officials and taken to Nauru, which along with Manus Island, part of Papua New Guinea, is where Australia processes its asylum-seekers. The woman was returned to Australia for medical treatment during the late stages of her pregnancy, but appealed her return to Nauru. Lawyers for the woman challenged Australia’s right to detain people on foreign soil. On Wednesday, the court said the government’s actions were both legal and constitutional.
The decision paves the way for the return of about 267 people, including 37 babies born in Australia, to the detention center on Nauru.
HRLC and other immigrant-rights groups say the conditions on Nauru are poor, citing women who say they have been sexually assaulted at the detention center on the island.
“The legality is one thing, the morality is another. Ripping kids out of primary schools and sending them to be indefinitely warehoused on a tiny remote island is wrong,” Daniel Webb, the HRLC’s director of legal advocacy, said in a statement. “We now look to the Prime Minister to step in and do the right thing and let them stay so these families can start to rebuild their lives.”