A group of Sydney-based asylum seekers taking legal action against the federal government will be sent to one of Australia’s most remote detention centres a day before their matter is heard in court.
An immigration department letter was sent to 83 Villawood detainees on Monday saying they will be relocated to Curtin Immigration Detention Centre in Western Australia while the Sydney facility is refurbished.
The move is scheduled to take place on Thursday – a day before some of the detainees who have taken action against the government over the alleged leaking of personal details are due to have their case mentioned in court.
But at a hearing in the Federal Circuit Court, Judge Rolf Driver said there was “no persuasive reason” to stop the detainees being moved given Friday’s session will focus on legal argument.
Of 16 detainees involved in Friday’s legal matter, three will be moved on Thursday.
Michaela Byers, the lawyer for the 16 detainees involved in the legal action, had speculated the proposed move was designed to make the detainees lose hope and return to their homelands voluntarily.
It would be near impossible to communicate with her clients, mostly Sri Lankans with limited English, if they were moved, she had said.
But the judge said if the distance between Ms Byers and her clients became an issue later on, the court could hear another application.
Earlier in the day, about 100 activists gathered outside the immigration department’s Sydney offices to protest against the relocation.
They brandished signs reading “Free the Refugees” and “Curtin Detention Means: No Support, No Legal Help and No Contact”.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s office has been contacted for comment. – AAP