Australia to re open controversial immigration centre

April 18, 2010 12:00 am

, SYDNEY, Apr 18 – Australia on Sunday said it was re-opening an immigration detention centre that was closed after riots in 2002 as authorities struggle to cope with escalating numbers of asylum-seekers.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the Curtin air base facility, in a remote part of Western Australia, would house asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan after Australia stopped processing claims from the two countries.

"As a result of (last week\’s decision to suspend) applications for asylum seekers from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, we\’ll be opening a new immigration facility at the Curtin Air Base," Evans said.

"Previously, it\’s been used for this purpose and initially we\’ll be upgrading the facility to accommodate that cohort of persons who have had their asylum claims suspended."

Single male Afghans and Sri Lankans will be transferred in the coming weeks from Christmas Island, Australia\’s main detention centre off its north, which is overflowing with immigrants arriving on rickety boats.

"It makes sense for the government to manage this group of asylum seekers in one secure location and the Curtin facility is well placed to provide this accommodation," Evans said.

Australia\’s previous conservative government closed Curtin in 2002 after rioting and allegations of violence against detainees. The problems came during a spate of similar incidents in the country\’s immigration centres.

Evans said another group of men would soon be moved to Darwin while a contingent of unaccompanied children would go to South Australia to ease overcrowding on Christmas Island.

The United Nations last week raised concerns about the decision to freeze asylum applications from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, saying it could leave people in detention for prolonged periods.


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