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Oz detention at sea questioned by judge

A SENIOR judge questioned today whether the Australian government had the authority to detain asylum-seekers at sea and send them to another country.

High Court Judge Kenneth Hayne gave the government and lawyers for 157 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum-seekers a week to prepare for further consideration.

The asylum-seekers were intercepted and then held by Australian authorities for weeks at sea.

Their lawyers argue that the group’s detention and the government’s plan to send them to India was illegal.

Australia’s government has vociferously defended its harsh and secretive Operation Sovereign Borders immigration policy, in which boats carrying would-be asylum seekers are turned back. 

The policy has drawn international condemnation from the United Nations and human rights groups.

Judge Hayne said the case raised questions about how far Australian power extended.

“It raises issues I believe have not been a matter for determination in this country or elsewhere,” he said.

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