Australia is set to open a controversial new detention center for asylum seekers, on an island off the coast of Indonesia, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The country’s center-left Labor government has so far been unwilling to use the much-criticized complex on Christmas Island, which it inherited from the previous administration.
Yet a recent influx of more 135 refugee boats has changed all that, and immigration officials have confirmed the opening of the multi-million-dollar facility, which can hold hundreds of people.
Immigration opponents say the mandatory detention policy is fair for people who arrive by boat without entry visas, but refugee workers and politicians have called the complex “bleak” and “forbidding.”
The government said that women, children and family groups would not be held there.
Graeme Innes, Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, said he was disappointed by the decision, calling it “a very inappropriate way to treat people who, whilst not obeying all of the rules of Australia, have come from very traumatic and difficult situations in countries overseas.”
“Govt to open Christmas Island detention centre”
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, December 19, 2008