Today, the High Court of Australia handed down the judgment of CPCF v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection  HCA 1. By a narrow 4:3 majority, the High Court has held that Australia’s detention of 157 Tamil asylum seekers at sea was not contrary to Australian law. The decision turned on the scope of powers conferred on Australian officials under the Maritime Powers Act, and the legality of their actions under that statute. The judges did not engage in any detailed analysis of international refugee law. Instead, they focused squarely on the construction of an Australian statute, and the Australian government’s powers pursuant to it.
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