Tuesday January 21, 2020
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Australia to Reinstate Island Detention Camp for Refugees

Refugee advocates applaud the law that they regard as a more humanitarian approach toward asylum-seekers.

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Australia, Refugee
FILE - A group of Vietnamese asylum seekers are taken by barge to a jetty on Australia's Christmas Island, April 14, 2013. VOA

The Australian government said Wednesday it would reopen a mothballed island detention camp in anticipation of a new wave of asylum-seekers arriving by boat after Parliament passed legislation that would give sick asylum-seekers easier access to mainland hospitals.

The Christmas Island immigration detention camp, south of Jakarta, Indonesia, was a favorite target of people smugglers who brought asylum-seekers from Asia, Africa and the Middle East in rickety boats from Indonesian ports before the trade virtually stopped in recent years.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a security committee of his cabinet agreed to reopen the camp on Wednesday on the advice of senior security officials.

The decision was made before the Senate passed legislation 36 votes to 34 that would allow doctors instead of bureaucrats to decide which asylum-seekers on camps on the Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru can fly to Australia for hospital treatment.

Australia, Scott Morrison
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses media at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Feb. 13, 2019. VOA

Morrison’s conservative government argues that the bill, passed 75 to 74 by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, will undermine Australia’s tough refugee policy. The policy banishes asylum-seekers who attempt to reach Australia by boat to the Pacific island camps in a bid to deter other asylum-seekers from making the perilous voyage.

“My job now is to ensure that the boats don’t come,” Morrison told reporters. “My job now is to do everything in my power and the power of the government to ensure what the Parliament has done to weaken our border does not result in boats coming to Australia.”

The legislation demonstrates the government’s weak hold on power and will put asylum-seeker policy at the forefront of campaigning ahead of elections that Morrison wants to hold in May. He has ruled out calling a snap election on the refugee issue.

Morrison said he would repeal the “foolish law” if his government were re-elected.

Australian governments rarely lose votes in the House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form an administration. Legislation has only been passed in the House against a government’s will in 1929, 1941, 1962 and 2013.

The ruling coalition lost its single-seat majority when former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull quit politics after he was deposed by his party colleagues in August. Another lawmaker has since quit the government as part of the bitter fallout over the leadership change.

Refugee advocates applaud the law that they regard as a more humanitarian approach toward asylum-seekers.

The Senate passed similar amendments on medical evacuations despite ruling party objections on the last day Parliament sat last year.

Australian security agencies warned in December that if those amendments became law, asylum-seekers would likely head to Australia again in significant numbers.

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.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten on Tuesday re-drafted the amendments passed by the Senate in December in an attempt to make the law less likely to attract a new wave of asylum-seekers, who used to arrive in Australia at a rate of more than a boat a day.

Refugees
FILE – Refugees are pictured on Nauru, Sept. 4, 2018. VOA

The changes included a provision that only the 1,000 asylum-seekers currently held on Nauru and Papua New Guinea and not any future arrivals would be considered for medical evacuation under the new regime.

The government had struck a deal in 2016 for the United States to accept up to 1,250 refugees languishing on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. The government had similarly made the offer only available to refugees on the islands at the time to avoid attracting new asylum-seekers, Shorten said.

“I believe that we can keep our borders secure, we can uphold national security but still treat people humanely,” Shorten told Parliament.
Medical evacuations have become a loophole in Australia’s policy of exiling asylum-seekers who arrive by boat.

Hundreds of asylum-seekers who have been allowed into Australia for hospital treatment have received court injunctions that prevent their return to the islands.

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

Law firm Maurice Blackburn welcomed the law change.

“It should never have had to come to this point, but it is evident this bill was urgently needed to force action,” lawyer Jennifer Kanis said in a statement. “In the last year alone, we have had to take court action repeatedly to help secure the medical evacuation of 26 ill people on Nauru, many of these children.”

“In a number of those cases, the delay in accessing medical treatment risked life-threatening consequences for the children and adults concerned,” she added.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said he expected more boats to head for Australia in treacherous voyages that sometimes end in tragedy.

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“There is no question that people smugglers will be hearing very clearly that the policy in Australia has changed,” Dutton said. “This puts Australia back on the map for people smugglers and Bill Shorten has that on his shoulders.” (VOA)

Next Story

Balmain East: Then and Now

Balmain East has changed from a working-family suburb to a thriving busy area. Balmain East has changed from a working-family suburb to a thriving busy area

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Balmain
If you’re looking for some time away from the hustle and bustle of the city life in Sydney, Balmain is just a 10-minute drive away. Wikimedia Commons

Located just 6km west of Sydney’s city centre, perched on a peninsula in Sydney Harbour, Balmain cemented itself primarily as the home of working families. It has a strong industrial background and was the home to coal mines, shipbuilding, metal foundries, boiler making and engineering.

 Governor Hunter granted 550 acres to colonial surgeon William Balmain in 1800 and from then on, the first settlement of the Balmain peninsula was slow due to the lack of transport to the area. However, it’s now easily accessible by car, public transport and even by a ferry crossing.

Beyond Sydney

 If you’re looking for some time away from the hustle and bustle of the city life in Sydney, Balmain is just a 10-minute drive away. You will definitely want to visit the area, so be sure to compare car rentals in Sydney to find your perfect vehicle.

 The area is charming and well known for its numerous pubs and friendly village atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to while away the time with peaceful walks, a spot of shopping and tasting the local food – all with fantastic harbour views. Darling Street, running from Rozelle all the way to the water’s edge at Balmain East Ferry Wharf is the best place to begin your adventure in Balmain.

Balmain
Located just 6km west of Sydney’s city centre, perched on a peninsula in Sydney Harbour, Balmain cemented itself primarily as the home of working families. Wikimedia Commons

Admire the views

 As Sydney is just across the water, Balmain’s Thornton Park is the perfect spot to take in the fabulous views of the harbour, city and Sydney Harbour Bridge. The park has picnic tables available for you to sit and enjoy your lunch while you soak up the sights before getting back to your adventure.

Spot of shopping

 No visit to the area would be complete without taking a gander around Balmain Market, one of Sydney’s oldest markets with a history dating back to the 1970s. Stroll around the historic grounds of St Andrews Congregational Church, to find an abundance of handmade products, jewellery and giftware, as well as a selection of tasty food to suit everyone. The market is open every Saturday from 09:00 to 15:00 in summer, and every second Saturday of the month thereafter, weather permitting.

Wine and dine

 Balmain is known for its fantastic selection of eateries and bars. We’ve taken a look at the places you need to pay a visit to when you’re in the area:

 

  • Efendy Restaurant

 

Enjoy contemporary Turkish cuisine in a restored Victorian mansion. If that wasn’t enough, Efendy also has an intimate cellar cocktail bar. You know you’ll be experiencing genuine Turkish dishes; the Efendy kitchen team is entirely Turkish, with each member representing a different culinary region

  •  Our Place on Darling

This is a cosy bar/cafe with rustic wooden tables and a courtyard – a perfect place for all seasons. Our Place on Darling serves modern Australian cuisine with a range of events throughout the week. Enjoy live music every Sunday night between 18:00 and 20:00 and if you’re up for a challenge, Our Place also has tech-free Tuesdays where if you make it through dinner without your phone or device, they will give you a free chocolate brownie and ice cream.

Restaurant, Wine, Glasses, Served, Dinner, Celebration
Enjoy contemporary Turkish cuisine in a restored Victorian mansion. If that wasn’t enough, Efendy also has an intimate cellar cocktail bar and restaurants in Balmain. Pixabay

 

  • Rossopomodoro

 

For wood-fired pizzas, classic dishes and a fresh selection of Italian and Australian produce, including antipasti, prosciutti, pizza rosse, pizza bianche, and pizza vegane look no further than Rossopomodoro.

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 Balmain East has changed from a working-family suburb to a thriving busy area. For a relaxing day-trip soaking up the world-famous harbour and sampling local delicacies, this is the perfect destination.