Australia to reopen Christmas Island detention centre

2:25 pm on 13 February 2019

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that the Christmas Island detention centre will reopen in the wake of his government's historic defeat in parliament over medical care for asylum seekers.

Razor wire surrounds the Christmas Island detention centre.

Photo: AFP / Mick Tsikas/AAP/MINDS

Mr Morrison said he expected the new medical evacuation laws could restart the people smuggling trade and Australia needed to be ramp up national security efforts as a result.

"My job now is to do everything within my power, and the power of the government, to ensure that what the Parliament has done to weaken our borders does not result in boats coming to Australia," he said.

Labor teamed up with the crossbench to pass amendments to the controversial Medical Transfers Bill, which would give doctors more power to decide whether asylum seekers on Manus Island or Nauru should come to Australian for treatment.

The legislation has been passed into law by the Senate 36 votes to 34 this afternoon.

Labor, the Greens and four independents backed the bill in the Senate.

Senator Derryn Hinch, who supported the initial bill for medical evacuations last year, had asked for security briefings before the Senate voted on the bill.

The move was initially seen as a sign his support for the bill was wavering, but he ultimately decided to continue his support.

When he announced his decision, Mr Hinch said it was the hardest vote he had cast in the Upper House.

He said he was confident anyone who was transferred to Australia would remain in detention while receiving treatment.

"I think it's the right decision," Mr Hinch said.

The legislation will now go to the Governor-General for royal assent to become law, but the timeframe for this remains unclear.

The Christmas Island facility closed last October when about 239 men were shifted off the island.

At its peak in 2010, almost 2500 people were held there as Australia faced unprecedented numbers of asylum-seeker boat arrivals.


Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs