Rudd expands refugee detention centre


The Rudd government plans to double the capacity of Christmas Island detention centre to maintain its of policy mandatory detention of all refugees that arrive by boat.

Plans are under way to expand the prison-like facility to house up to 2300, the Age said on October 31.

Already, the government has installed an extra 200 bunks. It has also transported cramped and unsafe shipping containers to the island to house new arrivals.

The expansion details were revealed after the 37th boat to reach Australian.waters this year was intercepted off Ashmore Reef on October 29. The boat carried 34 asylum seekers and four crew members. As with all boats apprehended by the Australian navy, the refugees will be taken to Christmas Island for "processing".

On October 30, six men from Sri Lanka, fearing deportation, staged a protest within the Christmas Island detention centre. One scaled a 15-metre pole and threatened to jump.

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Collective said the men were Sinhalese refugees who thought they were being tricked into signing forms for voluntarily deportation.

"There have been six Sinhalese that had been rejected", he told ABC Online on October 31. "But three of the Sinhalese definitely said they couldn't go back to Sri Lanka and said they wouldn't sign the forms."

The distress of the men is justifiable. The planned deportation follows an incident in early October in which nine Sri Lankan men were deported, some forcibly. One of the men was arrested upon arrival at Colombo airport.

The conditions on Christmas Island are worsening. The detention centre is overcrowded and under-resourced.

Yet the government has said it is determined to keep Christmas Island open. Immigration minister Chris Evans said on August 18: "The detention centre on Christmas Island is an integral part of Australia's border protection regime."

Rudd has repeatedly described the government's mandatory detention policy as "balanced, tough and fair", even though the policy is illegal under international law.