Police and the federal government face a massive lawsuit for damages from up to 48 under-age asylum boat crew from Indonesia, some of whom say they were abused when locked up in adult prisons in Australia.
Sydney lawyer Penelope Purcell is working with Indonesian lawyers and human rights organisations to take statements from the young fishermen who say they were tricked into crewing asylum boats to Christmas Island.
Under harsh laws introduced by the Rudd government, many poor fishermen were given mandatory prison sentences of up to five years for ''aggravated people smuggling'', even though some were as young as 14.
They were jailed as adults after police used a discredited wrist X-ray procedure to say they were over 18.
Ms Purcell said the fishermen were often paid $50 to $100 by ringleaders and told they would be transporting animals between Indonesian islands.
Once the asylum seekers were put on board in the middle of the night, the crew were given a GPS device and pointed towards Christmas Island without being told it was illegal. The ringleaders then abandoned the boat.
Ms Purcell said their first contact after that was usually when Australian navy personnel boarded the boats.
''They were terrified. One of my clients said: 'The men got on in tiger stripes [camouflage]. They had guns. I did number one and number two.'''
Most of the youngsters were released in 2011 after the release of a damning Australian Human Rights Commission report.
Their cases won broad sympathy in Indonesia.
Lili Wahid, an MP and the younger sister of the former president Abdurrahman Wahid, said on Wednesday she would summon the Indonesian foreign minister before her parliamentary committee to explain.
''We understand that people smuggling is a big burden for Australia but it is unacceptable that they treated our children in such a way,'' Ms Wahid said.
''It seems the Australian government has realised their mistake in this case. But it is not enough. We must stop this case from happening again. It takes both governments to talk about it.
''Putting them in the same place with adult criminals have done extremely bad things for the children's psychology that cannot be repaired even by compensation,'' Ms Wahid said.
Ms Purcell said she could not predict how much compensation she would be seeking, saying it would depend on each case and the level of abuse suffered.
She is working on a no-win, no-fee basis.
Some of the crew had gone to prison, but others were in immigration detention for ''what we say was a disgraceful amount of time''.
The cases span Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
An Indonesian-born lawyer, Lisa Hiariej, said the case could be filed as early as this month, and she was confident the Australian federal government would need to pay compensation.