Some Manus Island detainees believe the compensation they will receive under a $70 million settlement with the Australian government is too low and may reject it.
Sudanese asylum seeker Abdul Aziz Muhamat says tensions in the immigration detention centre are high amid uncertainty about how much compensation each detainee will receive and where they will end up when it closes.
Some are considering rejecting the settlement on the basis that it amounts to an average of $36,000, although that is not how individual damages will be determined.
“According to them they are saying it’s not going to be enough,” Mr Muhamat told AAP.
“People are saying ‘we’ve actually been in this place for four years and we have got physical damage and mental damage and this small amount of money won’t do anything to help us’.”
Speaking from Port Moresby where he is receiving medical treatment, Mr Muhamat said some Manus detainees will be resettled under Australia’s deal with the United States but many will be left behind.
He said those hoping to end up in the US may accept the settlement once they know their individual compensation amounts, believing it will be harder to sue the Australian government in any new legal action once in America.
“There’s other people saying ‘no we’re not going to sign the settlement because the amount is so small’,” Mr Muhamat said.
The Australian government and operators of the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre settled the class action by 1905 current and former detainees for $70 million, most of which will be for false imprisonment and tied to the length of time spent in detention.
Law firm Slater and Gordon has received hundreds of registrations and enquiries from group members since Wednesday’s settlement announcement.
Fewer than six per cent have responded negatively to the settlement or expressed a desire to not be part of the class action, Slater and Gordon principal lawyer Andrew Baker told AAP.
“Importantly, this settlement was designed to not be forced upon any group member who does not wish to participate,” he said in a statement.
“Group members have the right to object to the proposed settlement, and are not required to participate in it, and they can also ask the court for more time to opt out of the class action, which would preserve their legal rights if that application is granted.”
Mr Muhamat said the firm has provided the group members with information about how individual settlements will be determined and told them they do not have to decide immediately.
Mr Muhamat, who is undecided about accepting the compensation, hoped to get enough to help him get proper medical treatment and build his future.
“There is nothing on the planet that they can make you forget what you have seen and what you have experienced during the last four years.”
Despite the federal government saying none of the 839 men on Manus will be settled in Australia, Mr Muhamat does not believe they will be abandoned when the centre closes in October.