May 24, 2012
Immigration Detention Services deputy secretary John Moorhouse has told a Senate estimates committee the centre, which has been plagued by delays, would be ready this week.
The Immigration Department also will not say which facilities the detainees are coming from or give an official opening date for the centre, which was to house 1500 single men but later cut to 600 after a community backlash.
The centre includes two soccer pitches, a medical centre, classrooms and accommodation.
A department spokeswoman said for reasons of safety and confidentiality information about detainees was not available until they were moved to a centre.
The estimates committee was told the centre was to be finished in March last year but met unexpected delays.
Northam Shire president Steven Pollard said he was told it could be weeks before the centre opened and feelings about it were still mixed.
Riots on Christmas Island last year unsettled some residents but security provider Serco assured them it could prevent any breakout.
“The concern about men-only, I gather, is that the mob mentality could take over,” Mr Pollard said.
“If you have 600 people there, they could overcome the security system.”
Refugee Rights Action Network spokesman Marcus Hampson said it was unlikely detainees would try to break out because they had risked their lives to get to Australia for asylum for themselves and their families.
They would not want to jeopardise their applications, he said. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the centre was within budget and scope and the lead contractor was responsible for delays.
Local businessman Lou Dimasi, whose property is near the centre, said he would not be too concerned about security as long as detainees were not allowed into the general community.
Retired sheep farmer Laura Fox, 80, said the centre was not needed because asylum seekers should be housed in the community.
“But if there has to be a detention centre, I would rather they have it in a civilised area rather than the back of beyond,” she said.