FEDERAL Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch says the Weipa community must be supported when the Scherger Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) closes its doors at the end of February.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison MP, announced today that the government will close four immigration detention facilities including Scherger IDC resulting in savings to taxpayers of at least $88.8 million a year.
“Scherger was only ever meant to be a temporary Immigration Detention Centre when it opened in October 2010,” Mr Entsch said. “Nevertheless, many sectors of the business community have invested significantly in expanding their operations to meet the demand it has generated.
“We need to make sure the community is supported during this transition as there is no doubt it will have a major impact on local businesses and service providers.”
Mr Entsch said that during the election, the Coalition promised that it would stop the boats, and a range of policy measures are now underway which are helping achieve that goal.
“The latest weekly report for Operation Sovereign Borders confirms that the December quarter in 2013 had the lowest number of illegal maritime arrivals to Australia in five years,” Mr Entsch said.
“From October to December 2013 there were 17 suspected illegal entry vessels with 901 illegal maritime arrivals that’s 85 per cent fewer arrivals than during the same period in 2012 when more than 6,000 people turned up on over 100 boats.
“As a result, we need to rationalise the immigration detention network and with Scherger being one of four remote, relatively small and expensive centres to run, I’m not surprised that the Minister has made this decision.”
In the coming weeks, detainees will be transferred out to other detention facilities, Scherger will be formally closed and the site handed back to the Department of Defence at the end of February.
“It’s my hope that Scherger can now return to being a defence facility and there may be potential to expand, given the strategic benefits of the base and how they tie in with the recommendations of last year’s Defence Force Posture Review report,” Mr Entsch said.
“In addition, now that the White Paper process for the Development of Northern Australia is up and running, communities like Weipa have been specifically identified as needing to strengthen their economies through diversification.
“We have to make sure this is front and centre when we are looking at opportunities for them and I’m pleased to see that there are already-identified significant prospects in agriculture, tourism and also in the strengthening of the pastoral industry.”
The most recently available Immigration statistics show that as of November 30 last year there were 229 single male detainees at Scherger. The centre has normal capacity of 300 and peak capacity of 600.