News / Asia

Australia Transfers Asylum Seekers From Troubled Offshore Camp

An activist from the
An activist from the "Refugee Action Coalition" yells out during a rally in Sydney in support of refugees (2010 File)

Unrest at Australia’s largest immigration detention center, at Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, has forced the government to transfer inmates to facilities on the mainland. There have been violent disturbances by detainees at the Christmas Island camp during the past week. Protesters say Australian authorities are taking too long to process their refugee applications. 

Police reinforcements regained control of the Christmas Island detention center following unrest last week, but refugee advocates say there is still great tension at the Indian Ocean facility, 2,650 kilometers northwest of Perth in Western Australia.

More than 150 detainees escaped and it is unclear how many remain at large. Two inmates were found hiding in bush land early Tuesday.

The center is overcrowded. It holds about 2,500 asylum seekers, many housed in tents and other temporary accommodation.

There has been a steady stream of mostly Iraqi, Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia’s northern waters in recent months. The majority of asylum seekers who arrive by sea are incarcerated while their refugee claims are investigated.

Opposition lawmaker Scott Morrison accuses the Labor government of losing control of Australia's borders and of mishandling the crisis.

"The government, I think, is incredibly embarrassed about the scale of their failure on Christmas Island," said Morrison. "And, it's clear that no further transfers can be made to Christmas Island when it's in such chaos. I mean, at least probably around 300 beds were burnt to the ground during the riots that took place there last week."

Protesters on Christmas Island are angry at the length of time it is taking the authorities to process their refugee applications. Some are reported to have been waiting for 18 months.   

Australian officials say those responsible for the violence could face criminal charges.

Refugee advocates say conditions at the isolated detention camp are so bad it should be shut down.

In response, the government says it will try to reduce overcrowding on Christmas Island. In the past week, 250 unauthorized arrivals picked up by the Australian navy have been taken to the mainland, where their claims for protection will be processed.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen denies the detention system is breaking down, but concedes there are difficulties.

"I've been very clear that we have had an increase in boat arrivals," said Bowen. "Our detention network has been under pressure for some time. I've acknowledged that, since I became the minister last September, and I've been working to deal with those issues."

In recent days, there have been problems at other Australia detention camps, including a protest at a center near Melbourne. An investigation is underway into the apparent suicide of a 20-year-old Afghan asylum seeker at an immigration facility in Queensland.

Australia grants resettlement visas to about 13,000 refugees each year, under international humanitarian programs. The vast majority of asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat are eventually deemed to be in genuine need of protection, although the issue is politically divisive.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs