Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited Christmas Island following his announcement that the government will reopen its immigration detention facility in the remote external Australian territory. The government budgeted approximately $1.4 billion over the next four years to reopen the centre.
Morrison announced that asylum seekers currently on Manus Island or Nauru who are deemed a risk to Australia will be sent to Christmas Island’s North West Point facility if they apply for medical transfer under the newly passed medical evacuation bill. This cohort includes 57 men, including those allegedly charged with murder, sexual and violent assaults and terrorist activities.
Government health contractor IHMS will employ an additional 60 medical practitioners on Christmas Island, including a general surgeon, an anaesthetist and 35 mental health professionals. The expanded team is designed to eliminate the need for any transfers to the Australian mainland.
Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton warned that asylum seekers brought to the mainland under the so-called medevac bill would likely go on to become Australian citizens, an outcome he argues is against the wishes of the Australian community. Morrison supported that assertion, further warning that these asylum seekers would need to be housed through their claims, resulting in Australian citizens missing out on public housing.
UNHCR’s Catherine Stubberfield criticised the reopening of the Christmas Island facility, arguing that ill asylum seekers are ‘unlikely to recover in a remote, formal detention environment’.