Christmas Island: Australia 'to re-open' controversial detention centre

Henrietta Brewer
February 13, 2019

An Afghan asylum seeker allegedly grabbed two nurses' bottoms after being rushed from Nauru to Australia for medical treatment.

Labor has handed the Coalition a campaign gift, and the Liberal Party will be quickly dusting off their tried and tested campaign material on boat arrivals and erecting billboards in marginal seats across the country.

Its defeat, the first such loss of a lower house vote on a bill since 1941, comes as the government has struggled for months to close a six-point gap in Australia's most widely watched opinion poll.

A dozen refugees have already died in the Manus and Nauru camps and a number have attempted suicide, including children.

"The only person who wants boats to come is the PM Scott Morrison", said Sarah Hanson-Young, a senator for the Greens party, which backed the medical evacuation bill.

On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would reopen the Christmas Island detention centre - which closed previous year - to cope with what he predicted would be an influx of transfers from Manus Island and Nauru.

"Last night was not about an election - last night was about the simple proposition that Australia is strong enough to treat people humanely", he told reporters at Parliament House.

Protesters marched along Sydney streets to demand all asylum seekers and refugees be brought to Australia, in Sydney, Australia, August 27, 2016.

The reopening of the infamous Christmas Island detention center is part of that plan to stop unwanted arrivals and detainees who might take advantage of the newly-emerged loophole to come to Australia.

Labor's Senate leader Penny Wong said Mr Morrison was playing politics ahead of the election, likely to be held in May.

The vote has paved the way for border protection to be a major issue in the general election, which Morrison on Tuesday said would be held in May despite the historic defeat.

But criticism of the camps has grown amid reports of abuse, suicides and lengthy detention periods, even as the government says the policy is discouraging asylum seekers from embarking on unsafe sea voyages.

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.

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

The Labor proposal made it easier for refugees to get approved for medical transfer by making it more challenging for the Home Affairs Minister to reject their applications.

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