Australia's controversial policy of diverting immigrants to tiny Pacific Islands dominated the Australian media Thursday, after country's highest court ruled it was legal for the government to fund and participate in offshore detention. The Sydney Morning Herald juxtaposed a photograph of an immigrant baby with the faces and votes of the High Court's seven justices in what the newspaper called a "historic" ruling.
The failed court challenge — brought by the Human Rights Law Center (HRLC) — focused on the legality of the Australian government to detain people on foreign soil. Australia has for years embarked on a controversial policy in the face of migrants and refugees trying to arrive on the island nation by boat. It intercepts the boats, and places the would-be immigrants in detention on small, relatively poor Pacific island nations.
The islands of Nauru and Manus have been the main destinations in the detention program, and more than 1,400 individuals, including some 70 children, are currently being held on the island while awaiting their claims to be processed, ABC News reports.
The HRLC brought the case on behalf of 260 people — mainly women and children — who had been transported to Australia for medical care. Wednesday's judgment legally entitles Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to send these individuals back to Nauru. According to UNICEF, the group includes women who have been sexually assaulted, 54 children and 37 babies born on Australian soil.