MELBOURNE LAWYER VADARLIS SEEKS REMOVAL OF MANUS ISLAND DETAINEES

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By Greg Roberts and Kerry Taylor

MELBOURNE, Australia (February 6, 2002 – The Age)---The lawyer who took the Tampa asylum seekers' case to the High Court is planning a class action against the Howard Government seeking the immediate removal of boat people from Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

Melbourne solicitor Eric Vadarlis said last night the action to be launched in the Federal Court would claim the Government breached its duty of care and was negligent in its treatment of the asylum seekers. It would seek compensation and an order requiring their immediate removal from the island.

It would be based on claims that the government did not provide medication to the detainees in sufficient time to ward off malaria.

The Age reported yesterday that 15 of the detainees had the disease, but Mr. Ruddock repeated that none of the asylum seekers had malaria.

His spokesman said earlier that preventive malarial medication "may not have been there right from the beginning" for those rescued off Ashmore Reef.

A spokesman for the International Organization for Migration said five doctors as well as local medical staff were caring for the detainees, none of whom had malaria.

Opposition immigration spokeswoman Julia Gillard toured the Manus Island facility with Mr. Ruddock on Sunday and yesterday said facilities were primitive. But she said conditions in Nauru were tougher because of the unreliable power supply.

The Federal Government yesterday refused to guarantee a United Nations envoy access to the Woomera detention center to examine alleged human rights abuses.

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said he would discuss the request with his colleagues and Prime Minister John Howard after meeting UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson in Geneva.

But Mr. Howard, on a visit to Singapore, said granting access was Mr. Downer's decision.

For additional reports from The Age, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Age. 

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