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Residents, Business Welcome Reopening of Outback Detention Camp

The reopening of an immigration camp in a remote corner of northern Australia has been welcomed by residents and businesses, who say it will provide a much-needed economic boost to a depressed area. The Curtin detention camp was closed in 2002 after serious disturbances among inmates. The facility was widely condemned by human rights groups.

The Curtin immigration center lies in the red dust of Western Australia's remote Kimberley region, 40 kilometers from Derby.

The facility, once described as a "hell-hole" by refugee groups, before it was closed eight years ago, has been rebuilt to help alleviate overcrowding at Australia's main detention camp, on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

Two hundred single men from Afghanistan have been transferred to Curtin. It follows the temporary resettlement of other asylum seekers to a disused mining camp in the Western Australian town, Leonora, earlier this month.

In Derby, many residents and business owners believe the reopening of the immigration center will boost the region's economy, through employment at the facility, construction work and the use of stores and local services by security guards.

Resident Chris Kloss says most people in the town favor the reopening of Curtin.

"Oh yeah, I think there's a variety of views from a humanitarian point of view," he said. "But certainly, from a business and a community point of view, I think the general view is that these people are here, they've got to be dealt with somewhere and if they're dealt with in our area well then we as a town and we as people in our isolated area can get some benefit from it."

Since coming to power in 2007, Australia's labor government has gradually dismantled some of the tougher policies of its conservative predecessor. The indefinite, mandatory detention of all asylum seekers was scrapped and controversial offshore processing camps in the South Pacific were closed. Those granted refugee status are now given permanent residency, rather than the temporary protection visas offered under the previous administration.

However, critics believe that Australia has let down its guard and has become an easy target for people smugglers. The number of boats reaching the continent's northern waters has hit record levels in the past year, with more than 100 vessels carrying almost 5,000 people, including many from Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka.

Australia grants visas to about 13,000 refugees under official humanitarian programs, every year.