Asylum seekers free to roam Nauru, argue Lawyers

LAWYERS for the Australian Government have argued in the High Court that asylum seekers on Nauru are no longer trapped in detention since changes this week to make the centre "open".

The lawyers, representing Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, said the Nauruan Government's change of policy meant detainees were free to go where they liked on the island.

The government is being challenged in the High Court on the constitutionality of it funding and controlling offshore detention centres.

The Commonwealth's case was amended on Wednesday to include Nauru's decision to allow detainees to freely leave the detention centre at any time.

The case centres on a Bangladeshi woman who says she is terrified of returning to Nauru after being transferred to Australia 10 months ago to give birth.

The Nauruan Government announced on Monday it would process 600 refugee applications this week, but Mr Dutton denied any of Nauru's recent changes were related to the court case.

Ron Merkel QC, for the plaintiff, challenged the funding arrangements behind the Nauru centre.

He said the centre was effectively controlled on the ground by Australia as the major contractors were paid by Australia, not Nauru.