Asylum seekers to be sent to remote island centre

Leslie Hanson
March 9, 2019

Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre Entry, on July 26, 2013 on Christmas Island.

Scott Morrison on Wednesday became the first prime minister to visit Christmas Island, touring the newly-reopened detention centre, which he said will house detainees seeking medical care who are deemed too risky to go to mainland Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison flew to Christmas Island on Wednesday to announce the strategy aimed at preventing asylum seekers from reaching the Australian mainland. The island is 5,170 kilometers (3,210 miles) northwest of the Australian capital, Canberra, and is closer to Indonesia's capital, Jakarta.

Australia pays Nauru and Papua New Guinea to accommodate nearly 1,000 asylum seekers who have attempted to reach Australia by boat since 2013. Some 57 asylum seekers will be treated there.

Medical evacuations have proven to be a crack in the policy.

"It's a decision that's been driven I believe by the Prime Minister's desire to respond to the fact that he lost control of an issue, that he now wants to look tough, he wants to look like he's in control of the issue of asylum seekers coming back to Australia, he wants to look tough in the context of a debate about border patrol", he said. No boats have arrived since the laws passed two weeks ago.

A new doctors' panel to decide the medical transfers to Australia has not yet been appointed.

He said Christmas Island was a hardened facility that could be used to deter riots, and it was a disincentive for asylum seekers who "game the system".

Jon Stanhope was the Commonwealth-appointed administrator on Christmas Island from 2012 to 2014, and said he did not think it was set up to deal with ill asylum seekers either.

PM Scott Morrison touring the centre
PM Scott Morrison touring the centre

Morrison said the island's high-security Northwest Point Immigration Detention Center was ready to accept up to 250 men transferred for medical treatment and can be quickly ramped up to accommodate 600. "That's what my record demonstrates", Mr Morrison told reporters on Wednesday.

Amnesty International's Australian refugee coordinator, Graham Thom, accused Morrison of attempting to mislead the public and demonizing refugees.

"What they are waiting for is for Bill Shorten to be prime minister", Mr Morrison said.

Christmas Island taxi driver Chris Carr said it had been good for some local businesses.

"The key question is where refugees and asylum-seekers, who have done nothing wrong, may best recover".

"The decision is truly freakish, it's a very odd decision, a decision that's driven very much by politics and not by practicalities", he said.

It is understood as of Tuesday, no applications have been made using the new process.

The Nibok refugee settlement on Nauru.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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