Green and khaki canvas tents at the asylum-seeker accommodation centre in Nauru await the arrival of more refugees.A PLANELOAD of Sri Lankan boat people is expected to land on Nauru today as the Labor Party’s reinvigoration of the so-called ‘‘Pacific Solution’’ gathers pace.
The new arrivals, the second group to go to Nauru since Labor reopened the John Howard-era detention centre on the tiny Pacific island, were expected to touch down shortly after 7am (5am Australian time).
Like the 30 Tamils who arrived on Friday, they will be taken by bus to the 500-person capacity tent city in the sweltering middle of the island, where they will be hemmed in by thick jungle, the island’s rubbish tip and a rock quarry.
With the Australian Army almost finished building the tent city and with the Christmas Island detention centre already exceeding its capacity due to an influx of boats this year, today’s arrivals will soon be followed by more. Indeed a boat carrying 10 people was detected off West Australia’s coast last night.
Another planeload of several dozen Tamils are expected later this week, and the first group of Afghan Hazaras early next week. By then the camp will house more than 150 asylum seekers.Some of those 150 may also turn out to be women, children or whole families, as Immigration Minister Chris Bowenlast week told a press conference that ‘‘you can expect to see a broad cross-section of people transferred to Nauru next week and in coming weeks’’.
Despite promises by Mr Bowen that Labor’s system on Nauru would involve a processing centre, not a detention camp, the site’s inhabitants are forbidden from leaving.
A Nauruan government spokesman, Rod Henshaw, said on ABC radio that the situation was a ‘‘period of settling in’’.
‘‘I know the Nauru government is anxious to have them settled and, over a period of time, to give them the privileges of wandering around.’’
He said he hoped the asylum seekers would be free to leave the camp in weeks or a month. ‘‘I couldn’t put a time on it … but that is the objective, [to give the asylum seekers] the freedom of the island to some degree.’’
Questions also continue to be asked about the decision to process the refugee claims under Nauruan law. Last week the regional head of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, Rick Towle, said that Australia was handing over legal responsibility for people seeking asylum in that country.
Some have expressed concern that Australia may disagree with a refugee approval made under Nauruan law and refuse to take the person, meaning they can’t be returned to their country or resettled in Australia.
The media remains barred from the site, but yesterday The Age was able to glimpse the tents that house the arrivals.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.