Australia opens more mainland sites to cope with surge of asylum seekers

17:58, June 12, 2010      

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Australian Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Saturday confirmed more mainland sites have been actively being sought to cope with the continued surge in asylum seekers.

The federal government, which has already opened a number of new sites and recommissioned others for use in immigration detention, now has plans to house asylum seekers in the Queensland town of Dalby.

Gillard on Saturday said Dalby was just one of a number of sites under consideration but maintains no final decision has been made.

The development came after the remote West Australian goldfields town of Leonora last week welcomed its first group of asylum seekers.

"The Department of Immigration makes preliminary inquiries of this nature," Gillard said in a statement.

"I'm advised Dalby has been one of those preliminary inquiries but no decision has been made in relation to Dalby."

The department was understood to be negotiating with a company called Ausco Modular to house an overflow of about 200 asylum seekers in a camp used for mine workers west of the Darling Downs town.

But Dalby Mayor Ray Brown said the site, which has no perimeter fencing, was not ready to house asylum seekers.

"There's residential housing within roughly 500 meters of that site. There would be huge concerns," Brown told ABC Radio.

Two groups of almost 100 asylum seekers were transferred from Christmas Island to Leonora, 235 km north of Kalgoorlie, on Monday afternoon.

The government was also preparing to transfer a large number of asylum seekers to Curtin in Western Australia where a detention facility on an airbase has been recommissioned.

It can currently accommodate 190 people but capacity has been increased to about 300.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, campaigning in Cairns, said mainland sites such as Dalby and Leonora would not be needed if the government was able to properly secure Australia's borders.

"Well, I think if (Prime Minister Kevin) Rudd hadn't lost control of our borders it wouldn't be necessary, and the only way to eliminate the need for opening new detention centers is to stop the boats," Abbott said.

The comments came in the wake of a string of boat arrivals over the past week.

Customs officials on Tuesday has rescued an asylum seeker boat, the third to be intercepted in less than a week, carrying 35 passengers and two crew off the West Australian coast.

Source: Xinhua


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