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Government announces new and expanded immigration detention accommodation

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Government announces new and expanded immigration detention accommodation Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Australian Government will expand immigration detention accommodation on the mainland to help relieve pressure on existing facilities including Christmas Island, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, announced today.

Mr Bowen said a new detention centre would be established at Wickham Point in Darwin, while capacity at the Darwin Airport Lodge (DAL) facility would also be expanded.

He also announced the Scherger RAAF Base near Weipa in Queensland would continue to be used as detention accommodation for a further 12 months, which has the support of the local community.

‘The new centre at Wickham Point will be used instead of proceeding with the previously announced contingency site at 11 Mile Antenna Farm,’ Mr Bowen said.

‘The 1500-bed facility at Wickham Point will provide detention accommodation for single adult men, with a required capital cost of $9.2 million as opposed to the estimated $185 million required to develop the 11 Mile site.’

Mr Bowen said the site was located at an industrial area about 35 kilometres south-east of Darwin.

‘The first 500 beds at Wickham Point are expected by mid-year, with the rest becoming progressively available,’ he said.

‘The privately leased facility at Wickham Point offers a better and more cost-effective option for easing the pressure on detention accommodation. The development of this site also has the support of the Northern Territory Government.’

Work is expected to begin at Wickham Point in coming weeks, subject to final planning approvals. Support services - including case managers, mental health support teams, medical staff and interpreting services - will be available at this location.

The detention accommodation based at the Darwin Airport Lodge (DAL) will also be expanded by up to 400 beds, directly opposite the existing facility, by the middle of this year.

This will enable the closure of other Alternative Places of Detention (APOD).

Mr Bowen confirmed that the Virginia Palms APOD in Brisbane would close by June this year, followed by the Asti Hotel APOD in Darwin.

The previously announced contingency option of expanding the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation to accommodate more families and unaccompanied minors will not proceed at this time.

‘The government’s decision to move children and vulnerable families into the community makes expanded use of the facility unnecessary at this stage,’ Mr Bowen said.

Mr Bowen said following agreement with the Minister for Defence and with the support of the local Weipa Community Reference Group, the Scherger RAAF Base would continue to be used as detention accommodation for a further 12 months, to 30 June 2012.

‘The local community has recognised the positive economic and social benefits to the Weipa area and this extension of time for the use of Scherger is also supported by the Minister’s Council for Immigration Services and Status Resolution,’ he said.

The Department of Defence has confirmed the RAAF Base Scherger site is not required for operational purposes during that period.

‘The Department of Immigration and Citizenship will continue to engage with local stakeholders in the set up and ongoing operations of these facilities,’ Mr Bowen said.