Darwin Prepares For Asylum Seekers

Darwin prepares for asylum seekers

By Jacob Saulwick and Yuko Narushima
The Sydney Morning Herald, April 13, 2010

The Immigration Department could start using detention facilities at Darwin to house asylum seekers as soon as this week, as it seeks to take pressure off hard-pressed facilities and staff on Christmas Island.

The department was last night flying Indonesian crew to the Darwin centre, and is lining up charter flights to remove more asylum seekers from the island later in the week.

Christmas Island's detention facilities are stretched, and are testing the capacities of immigration staff. For instance, there are just 23 case managers on the island who are responsible for overseeing the applications of 2160 asylum seekers.

The Herald understands that case managers on the mainland typically deal with about 20 applicants at any one time. On Christmas Island, the workload is some multiples of that.

Case managers can determine whether asylum seekers are successful or not in their bid for protection visas.

Jim Carty, a Marist priest who recently returned from three months on Christmas Island, said managers were doing three interviews a day on the island and were under strain.

''Maintaining a consistent program of screening is extremely difficult in such an isolated place,'' Father Carty said. ''My sense is that everybody's under pressure, no doubt about that.''

The co-ordinator at the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, David Manne, said the general issue was about quality of staff, not quantity.

''Obviously people work with different capacities or levels,'' he said.