What is going on on Christmas Island? Crikey has been told that detainees from the lowest security compounds at Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre had a meeting with officials from Border Force on Tuesday afternoon, and were told that the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had “changed his mind”, the centre will not be closing as planned.
Christmas Island detention centre — which held nearly 3000 detainees at its peak, and has been the host of riots, self harm by detainees and several deaths — has long been slated for closure. It was initially supposed to close at the end of 2017. Then it was announced in November last year that “within seven months” the detention centre was to be “placed in contingency” — meaning it would be closed, but able to re-open within 72 hours. This deadline will pass in just over a week, and was thrown into doubt by the revelation that Villawood detainees were still being transferred (or threatened with transferal) to Christmas Island as recently as April.
Christmas Island’s economy has been tied to the detention centre for the last decade. In June, the collapse of a proposal to expand the territory’s phosphate mine prompted fears that Christmas Island may be facing imminent economic collapse
Crikey contacted the Department of Home Affairs for comment, and they denied there was any change of plan, with a spokesperson telling us, “as has been publicly stated on numerous occasions, the North West Point IDC in Christmas Island will be placed into contingency in the second half of 2018. The IDC will be maintained in a state of operational readiness so it can be re-opened at short notice if required.”