By Michael Koziol –
Far closer to the Indonesian island of Java than Perth, Broome or indeed anywhere on the mainland, Christmas Island is out of sight and out of mind for most Australians. Stunning geography aside, the island is best known as the home of a large, unforgiving immigration detention centre, ground zero for thousands of asylum seekers since the facility opened in 2008.
Until now. The Morrison government quietly closed the detention centre at the weekend, two years after the plan was mooted. For the first time in a decade, no asylum seeker or immigration detainee is imprisoned on Christmas Island.
“This is another example of the Coalition government cleaning up Labor’s mess,” Immigration Minister David Coleman told Fairfax Media.
The final planeload of 30 detainees left the island on Sunday. The government would not confirm their destinations, other than to say they had been taken to “mainland facilities”. But long-time refugee advocate Pamela Curr said the detainees had been relocated to Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney, Yongah Hill east of Perth and the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation.
The government has not updated its immigration detention statistics since June 30. On that date, there were 239 men at the Christmas Island facility – far fewer than its peak of around 2400 people in 2010, when the then Labor government was inundated with boat arrivals.
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