Australia has agreed to pay $52 million to 1,900 refugees and asylum seekers kept in one of its heavily criticized offshore detention centers, which could lead to more settlements with detainees from other camps, reports CNN. If approved by a court, the settlement will cover $20 million in legal fees for those detained on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island from 2012 to 2016, who claimed they suffered physical and sexual abuse, psychological harm, inadequate medical treatment, and other trauma, report ABC Australia and the Guardian. The rest will be split depending on a detainee's experience. The lead plaintiff in the case, a 35-year-old Christian man who fled religious persecution in Iran, described his 11 months on the island as "hell," noting, "I was in pain every minute of every day and I cried every night until I had nothing left."
"Most were fleeing religious persecution and violence and came to Australia seeking protection, only to be denied their basic human rights," a plaintiffs' lawyer adds. An Australian politician called the settlement "a stunning admission of the barbaric conditions in the detention center" and "unambiguous proof of the need to shut down all offshore processing immediately." But Australia's immigration minister says the government did not admit liability and "strongly refutes and denies the claims made in these proceedings." After Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court found the Manus Island camp to be "illegal and unconstitutional" last year, Australia announced it would be closed. However, no closure date has been given. More than 800 men remained at the camp as of April. (A former judge has offered to move there.)