SID MAHER. From: The Australian. January 01, 2013 12:00AM
CONSTRUCTION work on the permanent immigration processing facility on Nauru is expected to be completed in the first half of this year as the government continues transferring asylum-seekers offshore.
The progress on construction of the permanent facility follows the awarding last month of a $70 million contract, to the end of June, to Brisbane-based Canstruct as the managing contractor to the project.
Work continued on the Nauru facility as the number of asylum-seekers on Manus Island swelled to 155 after a further 25 were transferred to the Papua New Guinea offshore processing facility on Saturday.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the first phase of the Nauru facility was expected to hold 500 irregular maritime arrivals. He said 362 asylum-seekers were currently on Nauru.
The permanent facility is slated to be constructed in several phases and ultimately reach a maximum capacity of 1500 asylum-seekers.
Last month the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said Labor’s offshore processing arrangements failed to meet international protection standards and the temporary facilities were sub-standard.
The Manus Island facility has also generated tensions.
Last week seven people including a staff member were injured in a Christmas Eve scuffle between asylum-seekers at the Manus Island detention centre.
It was believed the incident resulted from a disagreement when Iranian detainees tried to recruit Tamils to protest against their detention and they refused.
Last month the government also defended diverting $375m from its foreign aid budget this financial year to pay for the rising costs of food and housing for asylum-seekers released into the community on mainland Australia. However, the move angered foreign aid advocates
Asylum-seeker policy is expected to remain a political flashpoint in this an election year. The Coalition last month promised a tougher policy if it won office in a bid to stop the boats.
However the government will attack the Coalition’s failure to support its Malaysia people-swap deal.
Last month refugee advocate Paris Aristotle also predicted Australia could expect 30,000 more people to attempt the dangerous sea voyage this year and warned that the navy could be overwhelmed by boats in distress.