Baxter immigration detention centre to close
August 17, 2007 04:49pm
Article from: AAP
SOUTH Australia's Baxter Detention Centre, which has only 12 inmates left, will be closed in a move refugee advocates say is no cause for celebration.
The Federal Government's decision will also leave about 100 of the centre's staff looking for new jobs despite efforts by the management company to offer transfers to some.
Federal Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said today the centre's remaining detainees would be moved to other detention facilities and the land, near Port Augusta, in South Australia's mid-north, would be returned to the defence department.
Some of the centre's transportable buildings would also be moved to outback indigenous communities to provide accommodation for officials involved in the government's efforts to protect Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory from abuse.
Mr Andrews said the decision to close Baxter from next Monday was possible because of Australia's strong border protection policies.
“Stemming the flow of illegal arrivals has been a key part of the measures to make Australia's borders secure and assure the integrity of its immigration program,” Mr Andrews said.
Refugee Action Collective spokesman Ian Rintoul said he welcomed Baxter's closure, but of bigger concern was the building of a mega detention centre on Christmas Island.
“Christmas Island is even more inaccessible and remote, so the closure isn't a step forward,” he said.
The Uniting Church chaplain to refugees and asylum seekers, Adam Tretheway, who led the final worship service at Baxter today, said the closure was a double-edged sword.
“While I welcome the closure of the detention facility, I know that the trauma associated with detention continues for years,” Rev Tretheway said.
“The physical, psychological and emotional costs are far-reaching.
“If only the millions of dollars spend at Baxter had been spent to support and resettle refugees and asylum seekers.”
Opened in 2002, Baxter replaced the more controversial Woomera Detention Centre in the SA outback.
Built at a cost of $44 million, at its peak it was used to house several hundred asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.
But while it did not suffer from a mass outbreak of inmates as Woomera had and was isolated and better protected from protesters, it was no less controversial.
Inmates regularly clashed with guards, went on hunger strikes and attempted suicide or self harm.
On two occasions, in 2002 and 2005, fires caused more than $2 million damage while in July 2005 a riot caused more than $70,000 damage.
Baxter was also home for four months to the wrongly detained Australian citizen Cornelia Rau whose case sparked a major review of the Federal Government's detention arrangements.
Management company GSL Australia, which has run Baxter for the past three years, said the closure would affect the jobs of about 100 staff.
It said while some would be moved to other immigration related operations in SA, it was inevitable that there would be some redundancies.
Managing director Peer Olszak said while he understood the government's decision, the closure was regrettable.
“I regret it very much because of its impact on people who have served us loyally and well,” he said.