‘No option’ but to set up offshore detention centres: Truss
DEPUTY Prime Minister Warren Truss says the Federal Government had no option but to set up offshore detention centres because of the ongoing actions of people smugglers.
Australia's detention centre facilities at Manus Island in PNG and on Nauru have come under increasing fire for human rights abuses and sexual assault of women.
A recent senate inquiry heard horrific stories from people who have worked with asylum seekers at the two facilities about their treatment and the appalling conditions in which they live.
Interminable detention is literally sending some detainees mad with incidents of self harm becoming increasingly prevalent. Last week in a detention facility in Northam, east of Perth, an asylum seeker wrapped himself in a sheet soaked in accelerant and lit it causing burns to 90% of his body.
Mr Truss, the Member for Wide Bay, said that in the period 2007-2013 the previous Labor Government's failed to maintain the integrity of Australia's borders.
"With regard to the issue of temporary detention, the Government takes no pleasure in such measures,'' he said. "We have been left with no option however, due to the actions of people-smugglers, who seek to profit from the desperation of those wishing to come to Australia.
"In relation to the detention of children, it is relevant to note that when the Howard Government left office in 2007, there were no children in detention who had arrived illegally by boat. Those in detention when the Howard Government came to office had all been released."
Meanwhile, refugee advocate Frederika Steen has written to new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urging him to close the two offshore detention centres.
"Coalition asylum seeker policy is cruel, breach of law and trashes our international reputation,'' she wrote.
"It is inappropriate and unsustainable to detain asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island. End this crime against humanity."
Ms Steen has called on Mr Turnbull to offer Australian citizenship to all still detained at offshore centres.
Mr Truss said changes made by the last Labor Government resulted in six years of failed border policies, resulted in 51,000 illegal maritime arrivals, including 8400 children.
He said the number of children in detention reached 1992.
"Most of these arrivals do not meet UNHCR criteria to be classified as refugees,'' Mr Truss said.
"We have already moved all but 100 of these children into the community and have committed to removing all children from detention centres.
"The Government has approved new support arrangements to grant families and children 'bridging visas' to live in the community while their processing is completed. These arrangements provide children and their families with increased support and a better quality of life during processing."