September 18, 2012
Another 36 asylum seekers were transferred to Nauru this morning as the Salvation Army warned that facilities at the island’s detention centre are not yet suitable for women and children.
The latest group of asylum seekers to be flown in from Christmas Island were all adult Sri Lankan males.
They join another 30 Sri Lankan men who were sent to the offshore processing centre last week.
But the Salvation Army, which is running care services for asylum seekers on the island, says facilities on Nauru should be improved before women and children are transferred there.
Salvation Army spokesman Paul Moulds says women and children should not be sent yet, because asylum seekers are sleeping in tents while the compound is under construction.
“We certainly would be keen to see more development happen with facilities prior to that happening,” he said.
“But at the end of the day, that’s not our decision, and I’m sure that the intention is that the facilities are developed far further before that happens.”
Major Moulds says asylum seekers have been confined to the compound, but expects they will soon be able to move around the island.
“That’s certainly the intention. It’s only days since the first arrival has been received,” he said.
“We’re starting to plan activities, we’ve started our first English-type classes and that was great, they loved that.
“So at the moment it’s basically just looking after people and making them feel as welcome and comfortable as they can in situations which are not the ideal but which will get better.”
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says today’s transfer of asylum seekers went “smoothly”.
“There will now be regular transfers from Australia to Nauru,” he said.
The Opposition’s Scott Morrison has questioned why only Sri Lankans have been sent so far.
“The boats keep coming from Indonesia yet no-one who’s come on a boat from Indonesia has been sent to Nauru,” he said.
Mr Bowen says a broad cross-section of people will be sent in future.
He also announced that four C-130 aircraft have left for Papua New Guinea to begin construction of the Manus Island centre.
“These consist of 25 ADF personnel and a substantial amount of heavy equipment and logistical support necessary for the construction work on Manus Island,” Mr Bowen said.
“These personnel complement the four command operations teams who are already positioned in Papua New Guinea.”