Australian immigration authorities have confirmed that the centre on Tasmania will be closed.
06 March 2012
Tasmanian detention centre closed by Australian immigration authorities
Australian immigration authorities have confirmed the official closure of the Pontville Detention Centre on the island of Tasmania after just six months in operation.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen promised upon opening the centre that it would only be open for six months to cope with an influx of boat arrivals being processed through the Australian immigration system.
Mr Bowen said the Pontville centre was only ever intended to be a temporary measure and that the site will now be decommissioned with the secure perimeter fence being used by the Defence Department.
Despite months of reports citing poor conditions at Australia's detention centres culminating in a scathing report on the country's immigration process by Amnesty International, which recommended the immediate closure of another detention centre, the news that Pontville will be closed has been met with disappointment by many local residents.
Community groups in the Hobart region have been lobbying the federal government to keep the facility as a permanent processing centre, claiming its economic benefit to the region is as much as AU$14 million (£9.4 million).
"I thank the Tasmanian community for the positive feedback the government has received about Pontville IDC and the benefits it has provided to the local community," said Mr Bowen.
"However, the need for such temporary detention accommodation has been reduced with new detention accommodation now available."
Mr Bowen confirmed the last 12 detainees of the original 113 at the centre have now either been transferred to other facilities on the mainland or released into community detention.
Emily Conolon of the Tasmanian Asylum Seekers Support Group claims that many of the asylum seekers who managed to secure an Australian visa or temporary residency status have chosen to remain in the area.
"Adjusting to a new country is obviously a long process," said Ms Conolon. "I think they're at an advantage in that the Tasmanian community is so welcoming and it's a smaller community where they can get to know people more easily."
The opposing Australian Greens party called on the federal government to continue closing down immigration centres, particularly Curtin, the remote centre Amnesty International condemned as well as Scherger and the offshore centre on Christmas Island.
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy London.