13 March 2012

$50 million to police Australian immigration detention centres

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The Northern Territory's Police Department has been given AU$53 million (£36 million) to assist with the policing in Australian immigration detention centres.

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The Northern Territory's two detention centres will now receive police assistance.

The country's centres have been marred with controversy over the past few months, with damning reports and widespread criticism springing from a riot in a Sydney detention centre during mid-2011. After the riot, it was reported that Sydney police were unsure of their jurisdiction and it is hoped this grant will clear up some of the ambiguity between Australian immigration officials and NT Police.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen signed the memorandum of understanding yesterday which granted the NT Police an additional 94 police officers to help patrol the centres and handle all major incidents within the facilities.

The deal comes after several of Australia's police forces criticised the federal government for proposed immigration policies which would see the federal government release the detention centres' detainees into local communities on a temporary protection Australian visa.

The federal government has taken this step to combat overcrowding and poor conditions within the centres but local police forces contend releasing extra people who are not allowed to work places an extra burden on their resources.

It is assumed other state's police officers will accept similar deals to the Northern Territory although it is understood that New South Wales will refuse to take responsibility for the detention centre at Villawood and only assist forces in the event of a major riot.

Mr Bowen confirmed that private company Serco will still maintain the general running of the territory's two facilities.

"DIAC does work closely with the Australian Federal Police, state and territory law enforcement agencies and Serco to ensure any incident at a detention facility that requires a police response is appropriately managed."

Opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison said without a proper agreement between the government and all states, the ambiguity regarding responsibility in the event of a major incident would remain.


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