Revamp Planned For Deserted Nauru Site

May 8, 2006: Revamp Planned For Deserted Nauru Site

Revamp planned for deserted Nauru site
By Jewel Topsfield, Canberra
May 8, 2006

An empty asylum seeker camp on Nauru is being redeveloped to house 500 people, as the Federal Government proceeds with its new policy to process offshore all boat people seeking asylum in Australia.

The revamp comes as the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, reiterated concerns about the policy, after the Government last week approached it for help.

Under legislation to be introduced in Parliament this week, asylum seekers will be sent to Nauru or Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea, without resort to Australia's legal system, even if their boat reaches the mainland.

The two processing camps on Nauru State House and Topside are all but deserted. Only two remaining Iraqi asylum seekers live at State House. They are not in detention and are free to move around the island.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said the International Organisation for Migration, which runs the offshore processing camps, was revamping State House to ensure it was “operationally ready”.

“The rationalised facility will be able to take around 500 people,” she said.

Senator Vanstone said discussions were continuing with the Nauruan Government about what would happen to the mothballed Topside camp site.

The cost of maintaining the offshore processing centre as a contingency against further unauthorised boat arrivals was estimated in January at about $1 million a month.

The Government is also spending $336 million to build a second, 800-bed detention centre on Christmas Island, which may also be used for offshore processing under the strengthened border control measures.