Up to 220 Indonesians could be compensated after children wrongly jailed in Australia as people smugglers | Australian immigration and asylum

Up to 220 Indonesians could receive compensation after they were wrongfully prosecuted and detained as adult people smugglers in Australia despite being children at the time.

Earlier this year, the federal government agreed to settle a significant class action brought by a group of Indonesian children who were falsely prosecuted as adult people smugglers between 2010 and 2012.

The children were wrongly deemed to be adults by federal police and Australian courts, who were relying on a wildly inaccurate technique using interpretations of wrist X-rays to determine age.

The prosecutions, launched in the highly charged political climate around border protection, led to children as young as 12 being jailed in maximum security adult prisons in Western Australia.

A Guardian Australia investigation last year revealed that police relied on the technique despite being aware of information casting serious doubt on its reliability and accuracy.

Many of the convictions have since been overturned and lawyers acting for the Indonesians, Ken Cush and Associates, are now suing the commonwealth in the federal court.

The parties reached an agreement to settle for $27.5m, plus legal costs, in October. That settlement is now awaiting approval by the federal court.

In the meantime, the parties are continuing to search for additional Indonesians who were prosecuted or detained using the wrist X-rays.

The case began with 122 class action members.

Guardian Australia understands that up to 220 individuals have now been identified who could be compensated as a result of the settlement.

The case is led by plaintiff Ali Yasmin, who was detained in December 2009, despite telling authorities he was 14. Yasmin was prosecuted and jailed in an adult security prison before being released in 2012 and deported.

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Yasmin’s conviction was the first to be overturned in 2022. Last year, another six Indonesians had their convictions overturned.

Guardian Australia’s investigation into the case revealed that, despite concerns about the technique, police relied on it to alter the dates of birth given to them by the Indonesian children – changing the year of birth, but keeping the month and date – to turn them into adults and make their age fit the X-ray interpretations.

Australian federal police policy dictated that children found on people smuggling boats – many of whom were tricked and coerced into crewing the vessels – were to be sent home to their families. Adults were to be prosecuted.

The altered dates were used on sworn legal documents, including prosecution notices and indictments.