Australia to reopen Christmas Island refugee detention camp

Laverne Higgins
February 13, 2019

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.

Mr Morrison declared national security measures would be strengthened under the government's Operation Sovereign Borders after the medivac bill was passed.

Australia's conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Tuesday that the detention facility in the Australian external territory in the Indian Ocean his government worked hard to shut down would be reopened to accommodate potential new arrivals and detainees, who might be transferred from the Nauru and Manus Island offshore migrant detention camps.

At that time, the sitting Australian leader called an election.

Australia will reopen its Christmas Island immigration centre after the Morrison government suffered a historic defeat in the House of Representatives on the refugee medevac bill.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison before losing the vote on Tuesday night.

"My job now is to do everything within my power, and the power of the government, to ensure that what the Parliament has done to weaken our borders does not result in boats coming to Australia", he said.

Morrison last week ruled out calling a snap election if his government was defeated over the "stupid" bill.

At its peak in 2010, nearly 2500 people were held there as Australia faced unprecedented numbers of asylum-seeker boat arrivals.

Registration mistake turned back New Zealand flight to China
The incident has created a potential headache for New Zealand's government, which has recently suffered frosty relations with Beijing.

The prime minister pledged to reverse the laws if the coalition was re-elected at the poll expected in mid-May.

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

Senator Hinch backed the bill in the Senate late past year.

"I believe that we can keep our borders secure, we can uphold national security but still treat people humanely", Shorten told Parliament.

Section 53 is "non-justiciable" and therefore a court will not decide if a law is valid, meaning the government can not challenge the medical transfer bill in the High Court.

He said he was confident anyone who was transferred to Australia would remain in detention while receiving treatment.

"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.

"If you think that by buying a ticket on an unsafe boat, paying a people smuggler, a criminal syndicate, you'll get a better deal to come to Australia, you're wrong".

The federal opposition is introducing amendments to overhaul existing laws, lifting jail time for corporate crimes from 10 to 15 years and more than doubling the proposed cap on financial penalties.

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