Australia to reopen detention camp after refugees allowed medical access

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After Australia's conservative government lost a key vote on the treatment of asylum seekers held in offshore camps on Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Wednesday that he would reopen a controversial immigration detention camp on Christmas Island, a part of the country but nearly 1,000 miles to the northwest of mainland Australia.

Despite a bruising and highly personal lobbying effort, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was defeated by MPs who insisted refugees held in offshore facilities have the right to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is facing a general election due by May, has said the change would undermine the country's deterrent immigration policies and encourage a new wave of refugees to pay smugglers to get them to Australia.

"The people of Australia will remember this day and know that this is now on your head", the Prime Minister said to Mr Shorten in Parliament.

But criticism of the camps has grown amid reports of abuse, suicides and lengthy detention periods, even as the government says the policy is discouraging asylum seekers from embarking on unsafe sea voyages.

"I believe that we can keep our borders secure, we can uphold national security but still treat people humanely", Shorten told Parliament.

On Wednesday, Mr Morrison said the government would re-open the Christmas Island centre "to deal with the prospect of arrivals. and transfers" - arguing both were now more likely.

The fast-tracked medical transfers law will only apply to refugees and asylum seekers already on Manus Island and Nauru.

"The government tells us that this bill is a constitutional crisis".

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Medical evacuations have become a loophole in Australia's policy of exiling asylum seekers who arrive by boat. After he left office, the centre-left Labor government began holding refugees on Christmas Island.

Section 53 is "non-justiciable" and therefore a court will not decide if a law is valid, meaning the government can not challenge the medical transfer bill in the High Court.

The Christmas Island detention centre closed in late 2018.

Labor had of its 69 members as well as support from Greens MP Adam Bandt and independents Julia Banks, Cathy McGowan, Kerryn Phelps, Rebekha Sharkie and Andrew Wilkie.

"We are disappointed by the announcement today that Christmas Island is to reopen".

He declined to specify what those classified measures were, other than to announce the reopening of the camp on Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory some 2,300 kilometres northwest of the western city of Perth.

"It does not provide any kind of attraction to people to leave where they are and to try to make the journey to Australia because they will not be considered as part of this legislation".

Under changes to the legislation, two doctors can recommend medical evacuations for sick asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.

Under the previous system, the Minister for Home Affairs, now Peter Dutton, had final say over all proposed medical transfers.

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