Australia seeks to process asylum seekers in East Timor

Christmas Island Detention Centre

Christmas Island Detention Centre. Source: flickr.com/photos/ publik16/2779453361/

In a policy announcement echoing the discredited ‘Pacific solution’ of the previous Liberal Government, the new Australian government has decided to seek to detain asylum seekers in a ‘regional processing centre’ in East Timor. 

The new Australian policy reflects a general hardening of policies towards asylum seekers in the lead up to national elections.  

ABC news report ex-Amnesty International chief as saying that this policy will  not work.  

The policy also reflects increasing practice engaged in by European nations of engaging third countries to prevent arrivals of asylum seekers and irregular migrants.   A notable example is the detention in Libya of migrants seeking to reach Europe. 

East Timor Map

East Timor Map

The Global Detention Project maintains information on detention centres worldwide.  An examination of the maps they provide shows a globe covered with facilities for the detention of human beings seeking to cross borders. 

An important transit country for migrants en route to Europe as well as a destination for many African migrants, Libya has an estimated undocumented population of more than one million (UNHCR 2009). Under pressure from the European Union, Libya has tightened its immigration laws and border controls, and expanded its immigration detention infrastructure. Human rights groups and international organizations have staunchly criticised the country for its deplorable detention conditions, … European countries have also attracted criticism for negotiating with Libya—which is not a party to the Refugee Convention—a deal to provide tens of millions of euros to house and process asylum seekers expelled from or intercepted en route to Europe (HRW 2009, p. 32). 

The UN Special Rapporteur on Health has recommended that Australia close its detention centre on Christmas Island.  The opening of a new (even more remote centre) takes Australia in the opposite direction. 

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