January 22, 2015 -The Sydney Morning Herald- Children who were promised to be moved off Christmas Island and into the community by former immigration minister Scott Morrison remain in a Darwin immigration facility.
The 94 children and 100 family members are being held in the Blaydin Point Alternative Place of Detention in Darwin, where they have been held since late December.
In negotiations with Senate crossbenchers, namely Motoring Enthusiast senator Ricky Muir, late last year, Mr Morrison promised that every child would be removed from the remote island by Christmas Day. In return, the crossbenchers agreed to pass Mr Morrison’s wide-ranging and controversial Migration Act through the Senate.
At the same time Mr Morrison said: “It has always been the government’s policy to place as many children into the community as possible, especially young children.”
A spokesman for the new Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, acknowledged the children were yet to placed in the community, but said the families would be moved in “early 2015”.
“These families still have some processes to go through before they can be released on bridging visa or into community detention, but the [Immigration] Department is working to make this happen in the near future,” the spokesman said.
Family members of the children will also be granted a temporary protection visa if they arrived after January 2014 and are found to be needing protection, the spokesman said.
The Blaydin Point facility comprises shipping container accommodation of six metres by 2.4 metres, a pool, playground and a medical centre. It is considered less restrictive than a detention centre, but its occupants are still confined within its perimeter.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who opposed the Senate deal last year, said senators who voted for the new laws “must feel pretty conned”.
“It’s clear the Abbott government can not be trusted. They have no care for the welfare of these children and no regard for the promises they make to the public or the parliament.”
There are currently 420 children in immigration facilities in Australia, according to December’s Immigration Department statistics. This number has declined significantly from December 2013 where 1028 children were being held in detention facilities.
However the number of children being held in the offshore processing centre in the Pacific island of Nauru has increased from 116 in December 2013 to 135 in December 2014.