Scott Morrison announces reopening of Christmas Island detention centre

Hugh Fox
February 15, 2019

Mr Dutton said any new arrivals would go to Nauru, but added it was also possible medical transferees could end up on Christmas Island, where the detention centre will be reopened after closing in October a year ago.

Labor says Scott Morrison is talking down Australia's border protection regime by deliberately misrepresenting the new medivac laws, which will make it easier for refugees on Manus and Nauru to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment.

"I totally repudiate the attacks of the government, seeking to whip up fear and hysteria, seeking to lure people smugglers to entice people onto boats to come to Australia", he told reporters.

The estimate of 300 cases is in line with the estimate from Australian doctor Nick Martin, who was based on Nauru in 2016 and 2017 and told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald last week that about 30 per cent of the 1,000 people on the islands would seek a transfer.

But criticism of the camps has grown amid reports of abuse, suicides and lengthy detention periods, even as the government says the policy is discouraging asylum seekers from embarking on unsafe sea voyages.

The people smuggling boat traffic has all but stopped in the past five years with the government promising that any refugees who arrive on Australian shores by boat will never be allowed to settle there.

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Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused the coalition of rolling out the welcome mat for people smugglers by suggesting Australia's borders are now less secure.

Opinion polls consistently show the Labor Party easily taking control of the government in the election.

Sick asylum seekers often have to fight the Australian government in court for permission to be transferred to an Australian hospital.

"We are disappointed by the announcement today that Christmas Island is to reopen".

His decision comes as both parties gear up for a bitter campaign ahead of a general election due in May and amid fierce debate over the conservative government's harsh immigration policies.

The center was completed in 2008 with a capacity of fewer than 2,000 inmates, but by 2013 held nearly 3,000 asylum seekers due to a surge in boats.

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He declined to specify what those classified measures were, other than to announce the reopening of the camp on Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory some 2,300 kilometres (1,400 miles) northwest of the western city of Perth.

"Have no doubt this man sitting opposite me is not fit to be the prime minister of this country", Mr Dutton said of the Opposition Leader.

"Ensuring access to adequate medical care for refugees and asylum-seekers is a life-saving, humanitarian act", said Louise Aubin, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Canberra.

Get the Monitor Stories you care about delivered to your inbox. "It should come as no surprise to people that people smugglers have heard what is going on".

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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