Tag Archives: Christmas Island

Asylum seeker boat reaches Christmas Island

November 20, 2015 | Sky News

An asylum seeker boat has reportedly reached Christmas Island in the early hours of this morning.

There are reports an asylum seeker boat has reached Christmas Island.

SBS are reporting that the boat made it near Flying Fish Cove before being intercepted by the Australian Navy.

Locals told SBS it is the first time a boat has been that close since January 2013.

It is believed the boat arrived within 200 metres of the cove in the early hours of Friday morning.

It is unclear if the boat was taken to the mainland or whether it would be towed back to its origin.

Source: http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2015/11/20/asylum-seeker-boat-reaches-christmas-island.html#sthash.ThUUYTjp.dpuf

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Last remaining Christmas Island asylum seeker children moved to the mainland

December 24, 2014 | ABC News

The last asylum seeker children being detained on Christmas Island have been moved to the mainland.

The last asylum seeker children being detained on Christmas Island have been moved to the mainland.

The last asylum seeker children being detained on Christmas Island have been moved to the mainland, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says.

Mr Morrison said a total of 194 people in family groups, including 94 children, were transferred on three separate charter flights from Christmas Island over the last week

“These families are now being accommodated at the Bladin Point facility in Darwin while arrangements continue to release them into the community,” he said.

He said it had always been the Government’s policy to place as many children into the community as possible, especially young children.

“The Government has been reducing the number of children in held detention across the country since coming to office,” he said.

The minister said moving the children to the mainland was “consistent with the Government’s commitment following the passage of legislation to resolve Labor’s asylum legacy caseload”.

“A record number of more than 8,000 children arrived on illegal boats under the previous government.

“In July last year a baby was among 18 people who died at sea in attempts to reach Australia illegally by boat.”

He said asylum seekers who are transferred to offshore processing centres will continue to be assessed by the Governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea in line with Australia’s agreements with both countries.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-21/asylum-children-moved-off-christmas-island/5981604

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Asylum seeker children from Christmas Island to lose visa appeal rights

December 05, 2014 | the guardian

Christmas Island detention centre

Under the Senate deal, 468 children will be transferred to the mainland from the Christmas Island detention centre. Photograph: Oliver Laughland/Guardian

New ‘fast-track’ assessments that have been criticised by the UN will apply to children due for mainland transfer under Senate deal

Detained asylum seeker children released from Christmas Island by the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, will be processed under new “fast-track” assessments, which remove appeal rights. The United Nations has warned the new assessments could lead to people being sent back to be tortured.

The migration and maritime powers legislation amendment (resolving the asylum legacy caseload) bill 2014, passed by the Senate early on Friday morning, establishes a “fast-track” assessment process for boat arrivals who came to Australia after 13 August 2012.

In exchange for Senate crossbenchers’ votes in favour the bill, Morrison has agreed to transfer 468 Christmas Island detainee children to the mainland.

The children’s detention on the island is unrelated to the bill, but the promise of their liberty was used as leverage by the government to secure upper house votes, most notably the assent of the final senator to agree, Ricky Muir.

There are still 167 children on Nauru, unaffected by the bill. But 24 babies born to asylum seekers in Australia will now be sent to the Pacific Island under provisions in the new legislation.

“Fast track” applicants will face an abbreviated refugee assessment process – enhanced screening is already as short as four questions – and they will be forbidden from appealing their refugee determination to the Refugee Review Tribunal.

Instead, they will be entitled to a paper-only review by a new body, the Immigration Assessment Authority, or by the minister’s department.

Last week, the United Nations Committee Against Torture warned the bill could mean asylum seekers, including children, would be forced back to the countries they’d fled to face torture.

“The state party [Australia] should refrain from adopting any legislative or other measures that may lower the existing safeguards and standards of protection which could constitute a violation of its obligations under the convention [against torture].”

Morrison said yesterday Australia would be safer with the passage of the bill, and it would strengthen the government’s ability to deter boats from coming to Australia, and to tow them back to sea.

“By passing this bill it has resulted in stronger borders. By passing this bill … the government has sent another strong message to the people-smugglers about our resolve to end their business forever.”

The minister said he had already started making arrangements to bring the 468 children on Christmas Island, some of whom have been in detention there for 15 months, to the mainland.

“As early as this morning, at about 20 to 1AM, we were in contact with the department to get that process moving, the minute [the bill] passed the Senate.”

But refugee advocates and international lawyers have condemned the new legislation, in particular the reintroduction of temporary protection visas.

Elaine Pearson from Human Rights Watch said the law “made a mockery” of Australia’s obligations under international law to protect persecuted people.

“It is bad not only for those asylum seekers who arrive by boat who now may be forced home risking death or torture, but this sets a terrible precedent to the region, if not the world that the rights of some are worth more than the rights of others.”

Daniel Webb from the Human Rights Law Centre said the children removed from Christmas Island would be channelled into a system that would not properly assess their refugee claim, or allow them to appeal.

“While these children are being released from detention, something positive is happening to them now, that comes at an increased risk they could, ultimately, be returned to torture.”

Senior researcher with the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW Joyce Chia said while people were focused on the children being released from detention, “it will now be much more difficult for them to qualify as a refugees”.

“It will be especially difficult for children, who are often unable to articulate their claims, particularly at the very beginning.”

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said the government could expect its new “fast tracking” assessment to be challenged before the courts.

“When the first person is screened out under this new system, I believe there will be a legal challenge.”

The government has already spent much of this year in the high court defending its existing asylum regime. It is back before the court Tuesday.

The chief executive of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Kon Karapanagiotidis, said the concession by the government to offer a “pathway to permanence” – for boat arrivals to one day be eligible for a permanent visa in the country – was a false offer.

“In remote circumstances, some refugees with in-demand skills, excellent English, a supportive boss and the winds blowing in their favour may jump the hurdles necessary to gain a permanent visa, but this could take up to a decade. During that time, people will be left in anxious limbo, unable to settle properly.”

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/dec/05/asylum-seeker-children-from-christmas-island-to-lose-visa-appeal-rights

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Jon Stanhope, Christmas Island’s outgoing administrator, says keeping children in detention ‘hard-hearted’

September 22, 2014 | ABC News

Jon Stanhope

Jon Stanhope

The indefinite detention of asylum seeker children in immigration detention centres has been labelled inappropriate and hard-hearted by the outgoing administrator of Christmas and Cocos islands, Jon Stanhope.

Mr Stanhope’s term ends at the beginning of October and he will be replaced by former West Australian Liberal MP Barry Haase.

Mr Stanhope, a former ACT chief minister, has been an outspoken critic of the asylum seeker policies of both Labor and Coalition federal governments.

He said asylum-seeker issues dominated his time on the remote Indian Ocean islands but a major concern for him has also been what he described as the lack of democratic institutions for the non-governing territories.

Mr Stanhope said 100 children were still being held in the asylum detention centre on Christmas Island, which is located 1,600 kilometres north-west of the Australian mainland.

These are the forgotten islands, the forgotten territories and to some extent the forgotten people of Australia, and that needs to change.

Jon Stanhope, outgoing administrator

“Here on Christmas Island we live in the midst of a group of children… who have have been in detention for over a year, and I don’t believe by any stretch of the imagination that that is appropriate,” he said.

“I think there has to be a better way and we need to find it.”

Mr Stanhope described the policy as “incredibly hard-hearted” and said it did not reflect how Australians thought of themselves.

“When you live here, and when you see it, and when you’re bumping into these children and you know little babies, little toddlers, confined by Australia in detention centres, behind fences and have been there for over a year, and the implications of that for them, their development and their welfare, raises very serious questions for we Australians,” he said.

Islands home to Australia’s ‘forgotten people’

Mr Stanhope also reflected on the services provided to the 2,500 residents of Christmas and Cocos islands, saying they were the “forgotten people”.

As non-governing territories, the residents vote at a federal level, but not a state level.

Services are provided on contract by the Western Australian Government.

Mr Stanhope said there were no aged-care services, no mental health, respite or in-home care services, and no consultation with residents as to what they wanted or needed.

“Services are imposed by the Commonwealth through a group of public servants that live primarily in Canberra and Perth and very rarely visit the place, and have no understanding of the needs and the nature of this particular community,” he said.

“I think the people of Christmas and Cocos islands are very much put upon.

“These are the forgotten islands, the forgotten territories and to some extent the forgotten people of Australia, and that needs to change.”

Mr Stanhope said he was not arguing for self-governance, but believed the residents of Christmas and Cocos islands must be consulted over services.

“I’m just arguing for democratic-style institutions and democratic process,” he said.

“The need to consult with people about the health service, the need to consult with people about the education service, and not just leave it up to public servants in Canberra and Perth.”

Detention centre no more significant than social club: Haase

The incoming administrator, who first visited Christmas Island as a soldier in 1965, said the immigration detention centre was one of several institutions on the island.

“The existence of the detention centre is no more significant than the existence of the local social club,” Mr Haase said.

Barry Haase and Tony Abbott, durack

“They are simply activities that occupy the space.

“One will have no greater significance to me as administrator than the other.”

Mr Haase flagged the island’s economy, which has historically relied on phosphate mining and the detention centre, as a primary area of concern.

He said tourism had also been a mainstay of the Indian Ocean territories, with Christmas Island in particular known for its red crab migration.

“How to improve the visitation numbers is something I’ll be hoping to involve myself in,” Mr Haase said.

A parliamentary committee has recommended Christmas Island’s casino, which closed in 1988, should re-open.

He said he would examine if that was something the local community wanted.

“If there was a casino on Christmas Island, who knows, maybe it will be something for us to work hard towards in the future,” he said.

“It depends on what the local population is interested in.”

Mr Stanhope now plans to return to Canberra and work in the community sector advocating for asylum seekers and refugees.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-22/christmas-island-administrator-jon-stanhope-replaced-by-barry-h/5760658

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Christmas Island staff prepare for arrival of asylum seekers, according to Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan

June 29, 2014

Christmas Island

Staff on Christmas Island are said to be preparing for the arrival of asylum seekers.

Staff on Christmas Island have been told to prepare for the possible arrival of asylum seekers, according to Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan.

An asylum seeker vessel made contact with marine rescue authorities on Thursday night claiming to be leaking oil 300 kilometres west of Christmas Island.

The ABC understands that vessels is from southern India and has more than 150 people on board, including 37 children.

Ms MacTiernan said people onboard two asylum seeker boats were picked up by border protection authorities on Saturday evening.

She said staff on Christmas Island were “on standby waiting for instructions”, but do not know whether the asylum seekers will arrive on Christmas Island or “be taken elsewhere”.

“They’re saying that two boats have been intercepted and the ship on which they’re being loaded is in Christmas Island waters,” she told the ABC.

“And everyone is on standby waiting for instructions as to whether or not the boat is going to be unloaded here or whether or not it’s going to be taken elsewhere.

“They’re hearing the people are from south India but they’re not clear whether or not they’re originally Sri Lankan.”

Earlier on Saturday a man named Duke told the ABC he was onboard an asylum seeker boat in trouble about 250 kilometres north of Christmas Island.

However, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison would not confirm whether the Government was aware of the boat.

“It is our standard practice, as you know under Operation Sovereign Borders, to report on any significant event regarding maritime operations at sea, particularly where there is safety-of-life-at-sea issues associated,” he said.

“I’m advised that I have no such reports to provide … if there was a significant event happening then I’d be reporting on it.”

Boat has 37 children onboard, according to asylum seeker

Duke said the group are mostly Tamils from Sri Lanka, who left from India two weeks ago.

He said the group is determined to make it to Australia to seek asylum.

“[There are] 32 [women] and we have 37 children, 253 kilometres … from Christmas Island,” he told Saturday AM.

“We are refugees. We come from Sri Lanka – we stayed in India and we are unable to live there. That’s why we are coming to Australia.”

The man said the vessel was being buffeted by wild weather and needed assistance.

“It’s heavily raining also. We didn’t get help anywhere. The wind is blowing in high speed, and [there are] huge waves,” he said.

“The children and infants are also in the boat … We can see some boats lights, maybe fishing boats.”

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-28/staff-on-christmas-island-told-to-prepare-for-possible-arrival-/5557548

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Asylum seekers injured as Christmas Island staff shut down protest over Reza Berati’s death, dozens of detainees moved to ‘red block’

June 04, 2014

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed several asylum seekers were injured when staff shut down a week-long protest at the Christmas Island detention centre yesterday.

The ABC understands around 70 male detainees, who had been protesting to mark 100 days since the death of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati on Manus Island, were removed by specially trained staff and taken to a high-security facility known as ‘Red Block’.

Mr Morrison has told Parliament some detainees became aggressive and had to be restrained after detention centre operator Serco called in an emergency response team (ERT) and asked all asylum seekers to return to their compound.

“The majority of detainees were compliant however I am advised a small number exhibited non-compliant behaviour,” he said.

“The Serco ERT continued negotiations with those detainees who were refusing to comply. Reports to me suggest some detainees became aggressive and were subsequently restrained and moved [from the area].

 

“I’m advised that two detainees suffered minor injuries arising from non-compliant behaviour and were treated onsite,” he said.

“A further four were taken to hospital for a range of injuries including suspected sprains or broken bones.

“One detainee has suffered an injury to his wrist. No staff were injured. I’m advised the facility remains calm.”

Witness says most protesters walked away peacefully

The ABC has been contacted by a Christmas Island resident who witnessed yesterday’s events.

The person, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the protests had been peaceful and specially-trained staff removed some asylum seekers yesterday.

“One-by-one the protesters were removed from the group,” the resident said.

“Most got up and walked away voluntarily but some didn’t.

“They were then forcefully removed and in the process several asylum seekers sustained minor injuries.”

The resident said a nurse on the island had reported “several cases of self-harm among the protesters, mainly cuts to arms and chest”.

Greens say reports of ‘terrible’ injuries

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says she has been contacted by people who work inside the centre who are “very concerned there was an over-reaction” to the protest.

“There are reports that violent clashes have occurred that have left asylum seekers terribly injured,” she said.

“There are reports of people being so badly injured they are now in hospital. Workers inside the centre are afraid for what may happen next.”

The Australian Federal Police have told the ABC they were not involved in ending the protest.

Serco has been sought for comment.

Protest marked 100 days since deadly Manus Island riot

 

The protest marked 100 days since the death of Iranian man Reza Berati during a riot at the detention centre on Manus Island.

Mr Berati, 23, died during riots which saw another 60 asylum seekers injured, including one man who lost his right eye and another who was shot.

An eyewitness has told investigators a PNG national employed by the Salvation Army led the attack on Mr Berati.

The Salvation Army is acknowledging a former staff member is alleged to have led the attack on Mr Berati and says it will cooperate with all inquiries.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-03/christmas-island-protest-shut-down/5497254

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Two asylum seekers transferred to Christmas Island for medical reasons

February 03, 2014

Second asylum seeker taken to Christmas Island as a result of maritime interception activities, Scott Morrison says.

Scott Morrison Senate inquiry
Immigration minister Scott Morrison during a Senate inquiry into the government’s asylum seeker policies in Canberra on Friday. Photograph: Alan Porritt/AAP
A second asylum seeker has been taken to Christmas Island for medical treatment as a result of the government’s maritime operations, according to the immigration minister, Scott Morrison.

The minister told 2GB radio on Monday that there were now two people who had been transferred for medical reasons.

“We’ve had two persons transferred in the last couple of days for medical reasons but no boat has got here,” he said.

The comments indicate another boat operation has occurred since the Operation Sovereign Borders release last Friday, which detailed that one asylum seeker had been transferred to Christmas Island due to a heart condition.

“As a result of our maritime operations during this latest reporting period, one person was later today transferred to Christmas Island, who was subject to a current operation, for urgent medical treatment in relation to a heart condition,” the earlier statement said.

“The arrival of the person for medical treatment took place at approximately 2.30pm AEDT this afternoon.

“I was briefed on this matter after the conclusion of today’s Senate hearing and was advised that this person was transferred at the earliest possible opportunity.”

The minister’s office and customs and border protection have not responded to questions about the nature of the second asylum seeker’s problem.

Concerns continue to be raised about the Coalition’s approach to turning back boats. On Saturday News Ltd published photographs of one of the lifeboats used to send asylum seekers back to Indonesia. The report said three asylum seekers who had been sent back on the boat later died while crossing a river in the Indonesian jungle.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/03/two-asylum-seekers-transferred-to-christmas-island-for-medical-reasons

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