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Christmas Island detention centre to house criminals who can't be deported during COVID pandemic

Christmas Island detention centre to house criminals who can't be deported during COVID pandemic

Australia is preparing to reopen a detention centre on Christmas Island to house criminals who cannot be deported during the coronavirus pandemic.

Australian Border Force said those being transferred to the island included people convicted of assault, sex crimes and drug offences.

“With unlawful non-citizens continuing to move from prison to immigration detention, and with required COVID-19 distancing measures in place within the detention network, this is placing the detention network under pressure,” ABF said in a statement.

“To relieve capacity pressure across the detention network in Australia, detainees will be temporarily transferred to the immigration detention facility at North West Point on Christmas Island in the weeks ahead.”

Christmas Island has previously housed asylum seekers and, more recently, people evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Christmas Island has previously housed asylum seekers and, more recently, people evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is currently being used to detain a Tamil family taken from the Queensland town of Biloela, who are fighting deportation to Sri Lanka.

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Meanwhile a fresh attempt to ban mobile phones in immigration detention centres is facing stiff opposition.

The Morrison government has re-introduced proposed laws that would allow ministers responsible for onshore detention centres to declare phones and other items “prohibited”.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge claims mobiles present an unacceptable risk and have been used to facilitate escapes, smuggle drugs and organise criminal activity.

The reheated legislation was investigated by a Senate committee, which divided down party lines in a final report tabled on Wednesday.

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Government committee members argued the powers were sorely needed and the bill ought be passed with minor tweaks.

But in a dissenting report, Labor senators recommended the government significantly amend the bill or scrap it altogether.

They argued the bill needed to focus on specific risks posed by high risk detainees, rather than imposing broad sweeping measures on harmless people.

The bill is a deliberate attempt to prevent or limit contact with the outside world.

Labor senators recommended the bill be reworded to ensure detainees are not prevented from possessing or using electronic devices, unless there is evidence removal is necessary and proportionate.

The opposition also wants prohibited items more clearly defined and extra protections included for immigration staff.

Greens senator Nick McKim said the “unjustified and unnecessary” bill could not be fixed.

“The bill is a deliberate attempt to prevent or limit contact with the outside world for people in immigration detention. It is also a deliberate attempt to silence legitimate dissent and political expression,” he said.

Senator McKim urged the upper house to reject the legislation.