Friday, August 7, 2020
Home Lead Story Australia to Reinstate Island Detention Camp for Refugees

Australia to Reinstate Island Detention Camp for Refugees

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

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.

ALSO READ: Research Finds US Power and Influence as a Greater Threat than Russia and China

“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)

STAY CONNECTED

18,959FansLike
362FollowersFollow
1,781FollowersFollow

Most Popular

Inclusivity: A Matter of Survival for Brands

By Puja Gupta Indian men are becoming increasingly self-aware and skin-care is losing its retrograde 'girly' tag. Men are investing in grooming products and going...

Chromotherapy: Heal Physiological, Psychological Imbalances in the Body Through Colours

By Puja Gupta Colours are part of the natural world and they play a major role in a way we feel and react in various...

Helpless, Desperate Pakistani Hindus Convert to Islam to Overcome Troubles

(Editorial Note- The views expressed in this article have been shared from an article published at The New York Times) The lips of Hindus stumbled...

Priyanka Chopra is Being Extra Cautious During Covid Pandemic

Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas are being extra cautious during the Covid pandemic. Priyanka opened up on how the couple is coping during the global...

Smoking Linked to Higher Risk of Bone Fracture

Smoking has been linked to a higher risk of bone fracture, but researchers have now identified certain lung-related factors -- such as smoking or...

Gajraj Rao: OTT is Playing Good, Important Role for Content-Driven Films

Actor Gajraj Rao feels the web has emerged as an important platform for content-driven shows and films but to get the right impact for...

Microsoft Announces New Platform to Help Indian Firms Return to Work

Microsoft on Thursday announced the general availability of its Power Platform Return to the Workplace solution in India to help organisations prepare for the...

NYC Celebrates Ram Mandir Bhumi Pujan Despite Ban on Video Display

By Arul Louis Hindus and their supporters in New York City celebrated the laying of the foundation stone for the Ram temple in Ayodhya, ignoring...

Recent Comments