Monday January 21, 2019
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Australia’s Maribyrnong Detention Center Gets Closed

The ruling Liberal-led coalition has faced fierce public opposition to its harsh immigration policies, including the use of unpopular offshore detention camps.

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The Melbourne, Australia, skyline is seen June 2, 2010. VOA

Australia announced the closure of Melbourne’s controversial Maribyrnong detention center Wednesday, one of several facilities used to lock up immigrants who arrived without papers.

The government said the decision to close the much-criticized facility was “another milestone in the ramping-down of Australia’s onshore immigration detention network.”

Maribyrnong opened in the middle of the last century, but has recently been the site of hunger strikes and other protests over harsh treatment.

In 2017, the Australian Human Rights Commission — a government body — reported guards at the facility used “more restrictive measures than necessary,” including the excessive use of restraints during escort.

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FILE – Protestors against asylum seekers being deported, gather for a rally in Sydney, Australia, Feb. 4, 2016. VOA

The few remaining inmates have now been transferred to other facilities.

Immigration Minister David Coleman said successful policies had reduced the number of people held at Australia’s immigration detention centers from a peak of 10,000 in 2013 to just over a thousand today.

Also Read: An ‘Underwater Garden’ Gets Revealed In Australia

Around 19 facilities have been shuttered since September 2013 — as the government looks to elections that will take place by the end of May and intense debate over immigration policies.

The ruling Liberal-led coalition has faced fierce public opposition to its harsh immigration policies, including the use of unpopular offshore detention camps. (VOA)

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Australia Serious About Tackling Climate Change: Prime Minister Morrison

Pacific nations have debts of about $4 billion. Creditors include the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, while $1 billion is owed to China.

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Australia, Climate
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is presented with a gift as he arrives in Port Vila, Vanuatu, Jan. 16, 2019. VOA

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has wrapped up a three-day trip to the South Pacific to reassure vulnerable island nations that Canberra is serious about tackling climate change.

Morrison told Pacific Island leaders that Australia would meet its international obligations to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris climate change agreement.

Many low-lying communities fear that rising sea levels will force them from their homes. In Samoa, coastal villages are already making plans to relocate to higher ground in the nation’s volcanic interior.

Morrison’s three-day trip to Vanuatu and Fiji has been described by foreign policy experts as mostly a success.

great barrier reef, Climate
A large piece of coral can be seen in the lagoon on Lady Elliot Island, on the Great Barrier Reef, northeast of Bundaberg town in Queensland, Australia. VOA

Coal a sticking point

But climate change remains a source of friction between Australia and its smaller neighbors. Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama criticized Canberra for not doing more to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the economy’s reliance on coal. Australia has some of the world’s highest per capita rates of carbon pollution.

Australia is also eager to counter China’s growing strategic influence in the South Pacific, although Morrison insists all countries should work together.

“We are here because we are for the independent sovereignty and prosperity of Vanuatu because they are our Pacific neighbors and family. That is why we are here,” he said. “Our objectives and our motives here, I think, are very transparent to our family and friends here in the Pacific, particularly here in Vanuatu. This question is put to me all the time. I mean, we do not have to choose. We just have to work cooperatively together.”

Australia, Meat free,Hurricane, climate change, economic
Tire tracks left by a truck can be seen in a drought-stricken paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the southwestern Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, Aug. 10, 2017. (VOA)

Australia has also mended a previously fraught relationship with Fiji. Prime Minister Bainimarama is a former commander of the Fijian military who deposed an elected government in 2006. Democracy was restored to Fiji, an archipelago of about 900,000 people, in 2014.

Also Read: Australia’s Maribyrnong Detention Center Gets Closed

Countering China

Pacific nations have debts of about $4 billion. Creditors include the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, while $1 billion is owed to China.

Experts say that some South Pacific countries have preferred to take out loans from China rather than accept grants from Australia because the process was simpler and less bureaucratic. (VOA)