News / Asia

Australia Transfers Asylum Seekers From Troubled Offshore Camp

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

Photogallery Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid