Saturday, 16 February, 2019

Australia to reopen Christmas Island refugee detention camp

Prime Minister Scott Morrison Camera Icon Prime Minister Scott
Ben Pena | 13 February, 2019, 15:23

The Australian government has lost control of the parliament for the first time in nearly a century, losing a major vote on a bill to help evacuate critically ill refugees from offshore processing centers.

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

The final vote, shortly after 6pm on Thursday, delivered a stunning victory for Labor, the Greens and crossbench MPs to enforce new rules to give doctors more say over the transfer of refugees from Manus Island and Nauru for treatment in Australia. "Every arrival is on Bill Shorten [Leader of the Labor Party] and Labor's head".

The Bill, which is an amendment to government legislation, was first passed by the Upper House in December, and will return to the Senate for a vote on Wednesday after several changes were made to it.

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

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Wednesday announced the reopening of a controversial offshore migrant detention centre on Christmas Island, doubling down on hardline policies after a historic legislative defeat.

"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.

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The Christmas Island immigration detention camp, south of Jakarta, Indonesia, was a favorite target of people smugglers who brought asylum seekers from Asia, Africa and the Middle East in rickety boats from Indonesian ports before the trade virtually stopped in recent years.

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

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

"Where we will always stand, and the Australian people can always trust us to do, is to have the mettle to ensure the integrity of our border protection framework".

"This is merely codifying something that the government itself says is happening now".

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

Sick asylum seekers often have to fight the Australian government in court for permission to be transferred to an Australian hospital. "This is a turning point for the people on Manus Island and Nauru, who for too long have suffered both mentally and physically without access to adequate medical facilities and the care they needed". People have died as a result.

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