People who have had their visas revoked on character grounds and asylum seekers who have “behavioural issues” have been moved from their onshore detention centres to the more “hardened environment” of Christmas Island, immigration minister Peter Dutton said.
Until December, Christmas Island detention centre still housed asylum seeker children.
The vast majority of those transferred to the centre had had their visas revoked after committing a crime.
“Some of those people have quite extensive criminal histories,” Dutton said. “At the end of [their] custodial sentence they in some cases will move into detention centres awaiting the return to their country of birth.”
People who have had their visas revoked on
character grounds, including criminals who have served time in
jail, are increasingly being housed in Australia’s onshore
detention network, as the number of asylum seekers being
processed in the country continues to decline.
“We have people with significant criminal histories who are now within the detention centre network,” Dutton told reporters on Thursday.
The number of asylum seekers in Australian
processing centres has dropped from 96% in July 2013, to 59%
now, Dutton said.
“As the boats have stopped, obviously the number of people who have come off boats in detention on the mainland has dropped considerably as well,” Dutton said.
The growing number of criminals in onshore detention centres raises questions about the suitability of the network for housing both visa revocations and asylum seekers, in some cases, young families.
“My desire is to, where possible, have a
separate environment for those people who have come by boat and
those people who are coming out of jail who have committed
serious offences,” Dutton said.
Despite that, the immigration minister is confident that the centres can manage having both groups in the same facility, saying that managers can make “professional judgments” on where people sleep and live.
The Coalition has closed down 13 of the 17 onshore detention centres as it moves to exclusively process and resettle asylum seekers offshore.
Prime minister Tony Abbott said that closing the centres netted the government half a billion dollars in the budget, but Senate estimates earlier this week revealed that the government had spent $2.4bn over two years on maintaining processing centres in Nauru and Manus Island.