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Detention center expansion shows failing of Australian border policies: Opposition

03-04-2011 09:43 BJT

CANBERRA, March 4 (Xinhua) -- Australian federal Opposition said on Friday the government's major expansion of immigration detention facilities shows its border protection policies are failing.

On Thursday night, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced 1, 900 new beds will be built around Darwin of Northern Territory, including 400 extra beds at the Darwin Airport facility and a new detention center to be leased for three years.

Scott Morrison, Opposition's immigration spokesman, said the announcement would bring the total of new detention center beds to nearly 5,000 since the last election.

"Labor have announced and opened more beds in detention centers than they have in public hospitals," he told ABC News on Friday.

"As long as the boats keep coming more beds will be needed, people are going to continue to spend longer in detention, and the costs are going to continue to escalate," he said, "Their budget has already blown out by a factor of a billion dollars. The costs annually have been increased by a factor of seven times since this Government came to office."

Meanwhile, Bowen said the government cannot say how many new asylum seekers it expects to have to house over the next few years.

"It's very hard to predict exact numbers ... we don't make forecasts," he told ABC Radio on Friday.

"(But) it's well known that the number of boat arrivals has been high of recent times. It's well known that our detention network has been under pressure."

The immigration minister said the new center would ensure against overcrowding, but the 1500-bed facility "might not all be necessary or it might all be necessary".

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said there is only one way to stop overcrowding and "that's to stop the boats and the boats will just keep coming unless the government changes policy."

The Refugee Council of Australia said building a new detention center in Darwin is a short-term fix and will not resolve the underlying problems with current border policies.

The council said Australia should look to Europe and the United States where asylum seekers are released into community detention facilities after basic identity and health checks.


Editor:Yang Jie |Source: Xinhua

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