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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8638

Asylum Seekers

(Question No. 1075)

Mr Morrison asked the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, in writing, on 19 June 2012:

Can the he confirm that his department is establishing a new facility at the quarantine station on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands to cope with the latest influx of irregular maritime arrivals; if so, (a) what is the purpose of this facility, (b) how many people can this facility accommodate, (c) how many arrivals is his department anticipating, (d) what will be the total cost of these new operations on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, including capital and operating costs, (e) what is the estimated charter cost of supporting these new operations, (f) how many staff have been transferred to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and (g) how long will this facility be in place.

Mr Bowen: The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

The Government is not building or operating an immigration detention centre on the Cocos Islands. As is appropriate, the department is making contingency arrangements to accommodate any irregular maritime arrivals who might arrive at the Cocos Islands for short periods until they can be transferred to Christmas Island.

The department, in consultation with the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport, is considering options for holding irregular maritime arrivals for short periods on the Cocos Islands using existing infrastructure pending transfer to Christmas Island. Work has commenced on minor refurbishment works to the Quarantine Station on West Island. It is estimated that these works will cost $50 000. The Quarantine Station can hold approximately 80 persons on a short term basis pending transfer to Christmas Island. There will also be capacity to house agency and service provider personnel to support the response to any arrivals at the Cocos Islands.

The department aims to transfer irregular maritime arrivals at the Cocos Islands to Christmas Island as soon as possible. Normally, this is within 72 hours.

Due to the isolated nature of the Cocos Islands, the department relies on air services to respond quickly to irregular maritime arrivals at the Cocos Islands. Charter costs vary according to the size of the aircraft used and its routing. The department follows Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines to source aircraft for charter services and uses panel arrangements established by the Department of Defence.

The department has a small contingent of officers on the Cocos Islands. These staff currently include a small number of detention service provider personnel and an interpreter, although staffing arrangements are under ongoing review.