1 Nov 2009

Christmas Island detention centre predicted to double

6:28 am on 1 November 2009

The Australian government is reportedly planning to double the size of the Christmas Island detention centre.

Nineteen boats have been intercepted in Australian waters since the start of last month and 46 since August 2008.

News Limited newspapers report that Immigration Minister Chris Evans has confirmed that his Government is preparing to significantly boost the capacity of the detention centre.

The ABC reports the detention centre can accommodate about 1400 people, but the facility has been operating at close to capacity following an influx of asylum seekers over the past month.

There are currently about 1156 asylum seekers on the island. Extra persoonel and equipment have been sent to the island to deal with the new arrivals.

Stalemate continues

There is still no resolution to the fate of 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers aboard an Australian Customs vessel in Indonesian waters.

They have been on board the Oceanic Viking for 13 days. Indonesia has granted the ship permission to stay in waters off the island of Bintan for another week.

Indonesia's foreign ministry says the aim is to give Australia time to resolve the standoff peacefully.

Green Party senator Sarah Hanson-Young says prime minister Kevin Rudd should order that they be taken to a detention centre on Christmas Island.

Opposition Housing and Local Government spokesperson Scott Morrison told the ABC's Lateline programme the Government had failed to take a hard line on people smugglers.

He said the Government is sending the wrong messages and the boats keep coming.

But Government frontbencher Tony Burke told Lateline the Government's policy is more sensible and more humane than the Howard government's policy of offshore detention.