Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Wednesday (February 13th) the reopening of the highly controversial immigration detention camp at Christmas Island, further tightening his migration policy after a historic defeat in Parliament.
Scott Morrison, head of the Australian government, on Wednesday (February 13th) approved the resumption of operation of the immigration detention camp on Christmas Island, which had been closed in October. The Prime Minister justified this decision by a probable influx of illegal immigrants to the Australian coast, linked, according to him, to the new legislation ratified by the opposition.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the government suffered a historic setback in Parliament when the Labor opposition and independents voted against the opinion of the ruling right, controversial amendments on the medical treatment of asylum seekers relegated by Australia in offshore camps in Papua New Guinea or the equatorial island of Nauru.
In concrete terms, these texts can allow the thousands of migrants still detained in these camps denounced by the human rights organizations to be sent for treatment in Australia if two doctors request it.
The policy of the Australian right has been since 2013 to prevent at all costs asylum seekers attempting to arrive clandestinely in Australia to tread the Australian soil.
Who are the immigrants and where are they going?
"If they come, you'll thank the Labor Party and Bill Shorten"
This vote was a historic defeat since it was the first time since 1929 that an Australian government was defeated in the House of Representatives on a law considered major.
Scott Morrison, a conservative who had distinguished himself after the alternation of 2013 by the implementation of the zero tolerance policy against boat people, swept the fact that the amendments only concern migrants still held in offshore camps and accused the opposition of seeking to "weaken and compromise our borders". His government, he then retaliated, will adopt "100%" of recommendations made by the security services to strengthen efforts to prevent new arrivals of illegal immigrants.
He declined to say what those recommendations were, except for the reopening of the Christmas Island camp, an Australian Indian Ocean territory located 1,500 km from the north-east coast of New Caledonia. Mainland, and 350 km south of Indonesia.
"If they do not come, it will be thanks to the decisions we make now and to the actions we are implementing," said Scott Morrison, who took power in August after an internal "coup" with his Liberal Party. "If they come, you'll thank the Labor Party and (its leader) Bill Shorten."
The Australian government turns right
Australia strongly criticized for detention conditions in migrant camps
This shock decision is part of the campaign for the elections scheduled for May, during which immigration will be a key topic. The last conservative governments have been strongly criticized for their very restrictive policy implemented in 2013, which consists in systematically pushing back the boats of refugees trying to gain illegally its coasts.
Migrants who do this have long been relegated to indeterminate detention camps for long periods of time until their claim for asylum is heard. Even if the asylum claim is well-founded, these illegal immigrants are not allowed to settle on Australian soil. They have the choice between going to a third country or going home.
Canberra justifies its policy by the need to fight against gangs of smugglers and to deter migrants attempting the perilous journey to Australia.
This policy has indeed been successful, in that the number of arrivals has shrunk to a trickle, but it has divided Australian opinion and tarnished the country's international reputation. Many NGOs have nagged a very rich nation turning their backs on vulnerable populations.
Australia has been ravaged for years by critics of the conditions of detention in the camps that house many children, where suicides and self-harm have been recorded.
"Pathetic, cruel and dangerous" behavior
The Christmas Island camp, which also more recently counted foreign common law convicts whose residence permits had been annulled, was also the scene of a violent riot in November 2015 after the death of a petitioner. 'asylum.
"Providing access to adequate medical treatment for refugees and asylum seekers is a humanitarian imperative to save lives," said Louise Aubin, Canberra representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Labor Party has stepped up to denounce "the alarmist tactics" of the government accused of playing for electoral purposes on the fear of migrants. "The only person who is hoping for ships to come is Premier Scott Morrison," said Green Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, denouncing "pathetic, cruel and dangerous" behavior.
Despite the defeat in Parliament, Scott Morrison has ruled out early elections, saying Australians would have a say in the legislative elections.