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Australia to reopen controversial detention center

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on February 13, 2019 - Duration: 02:02s

Australia to reopen controversial detention center

Australia will reopen a controversial detention centre for asylum seekers, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said after an embarrassing defeat in parliament that allows migrants in offshore camps to receive medical care in the country.

Ed Giles reports.

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Australia to reopen controversial detention center

Australia's government says it will re-open a controversial off-shore immigration detention center one day after a historic defeat on refugee policy in parliament.

That loss will allow migrants in Australia's two existing off-shore detention centers in the Pacific to receieve medical care in Australia.

It's the first time a sitting Australian government has lost a vote in the lower house since the 1940s, an embarrassment to the ruling coalition who are dragging in the polls just months from an election.

The bill cleared the Senate on Wednesday (February 13), amending the country's hard-line immigration laws.

It lets doctors grant the thousand-odd refugees already held offshore access to care in Australia.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) AUSTRALIAN MEMBER OF FEDERAL PARLIAMENT, DOCTOR KERRYN PHELPS, SAYING: "What our parliament and our senate have done in the past few days is to say enough is enough.

It is time for the Australian government, having done the job of stopping the boats and preventing unnecessary deaths at sea, to now prevent unnecessary deaths on Manus Island and Nauru." The bill's propoents say this week's immigration amendment will not apply to new arrivals trying to reach Australia by boat.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison strongly opposed any change, saying it would weaken Australia's borders.

He said it risked bringing a new wave of asylum seekers and the government would be forced to re-open an extra detention center on Christmas Island.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON, SAYING: "This Parliament has already tipped its hand enough to the people smugglers... We have approved putting in place the reopening of the Christmas Island detention facilities and a series of compounds there, both to deal with the prospect of arrivals as well as dealing with the prospect of transfers." Critics reacted quickly, accusing the PM of ramping up the rhetoric on asylum seekers in the face of an uphill battle to stay in government.

The detention center on Christmas Island has been a hinge in the outcome of past elections.

One analyst told Reuters the conservative government would be happy to fight an election campaign on border security.

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