By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania
CANBERRA, Australia – The Australian government will increase the capacity of a Christmas Island detention facility as a result of the increase in the number of individuals seeking asylum.
As a result of the government’s plans, the detention center, which will cost approximately $40 million, will be able to hold more than 2000 individuals.
The government believes that it is necessary to increase the number of beds by approximately 50%.
It will continue to expand the center as space is needed and remains committed to a policy of mandatory detention for all unauthorized boat arrivals.
Christmas Island officials claim that careful planning of the expansion will be necessary to ensure human treatment and avoid overcrowding.
While the government claims these plans are an effort to cope with the influx of asylum seekers over the last few months, opposition officials have a different view.
They claim this is evidence of the administration’s failing immigration policies. Expanding the capacity of detention facilities is not the answer, they claim, but rather the government must strengthen Australia’s immigration laws.
“[The Prime Minister’s] policy was a failure, it’s in chaos and it’s a shambles,” opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull stated.
Over the last several months, these policies have sparked bitter debate. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd claims that the influx is the result of the current situations in countries such as Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. The opposition, however, claims that the Rudd’s relaxation of the severe immigration policies inherited from his predecessor is at the root of the problem.
Rather than applying to the UN Refugee Agency, many asylum seekers will travel to Australia illegally by boat, which is encouraged by the administration’s lax policies.
This debate rages onward as seventy-eight Sri Lankan asylum seekers remain aboard a ship in waters just off one of the Indonesian islands.
Neither the government nor the asylum seekers are budging on their positions.
The asylum seekers indicated that they were being treated well but refused to disembark unless the ship went to Australia.
Indonesia will allow the ship to remain there for another week.
For more information, please see:
ABC News – Detention centre expansion ‘proves policy failure’ – 31 October 2009
ABC News – Detention centre expansion confirmed – 31 October 2009
The Age – Christmas Is detention centre to expand – 31 October 2009
BBC News – Australia to expand asylum centre – 31 October 2009