Bowen Flags More Onshore Processing

Bowen flags more onshore processing

September 20, 2010

The federal government is considering a further expansion of immigration facilities on the mainland in an effort to cope with a growing number of asylum seekers in detention.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Monday refused to rule out an expansion of existing mainland facilities, or opening new sites, amid overcrowding in Australia's detention network.

There are now almost 5000 illegal maritime arrivals in detention in Australia, most of whom are seeking asylum, including 2149 on the mainland and 2596 on Christmas Island.

“I've said in an up-front manner that I'm having a good look at the issue of onshore detention, what our needs will be, what the demand will be and what my response will be,” Mr Bowen told Sky News.

“I'm not going to rule in or out any particular site or any particular approach.”

The development comes after the government last week announced that the Scherger Air Force Base in Queensland would be adapted to accommodate up to 300 asylum seekers as part of an immediate response.

There are also plans to add 600 beds to the remote Curtin Air Force Base in Western Australia, boosting its capacity to 1200, and to expand the use of the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation.

However, Mr Bowen rejected the expansion plans were an admission that the detention system was not coping with demand.

“They are coping, but nevertheless it is necessary to expand the number of detention beds we have to relieve some of that pressure,” he said.