Australia’s onshore immigration detention centres are struggling to cope with “unlawful non-citizens” who can’t be expelled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The home affairs minister will send 250 foreign criminals to Christmas Island within the next couple of weeks, with staff going into quarantine before being deployed to the facility.
“The vast majority, now, of people within our detention network are … bikies, drug dealers and pedophiles,” Dutton told Sydney radio 2GB on Aug 6.
“What we’re going to do is take 250 of those people – the criminals – out of our detention centres on the mainland and I’m going to put them into a high security facility on Christmas Island.”
Dutton said the reshuffle would free up some space.
“We’ve got people who are coming out of jail, they need to be deported but we can’t deport them at the moment because of COVID,” he said.
“We’ll work closely with the Christmas Island community to make sure it works well.”
Christmas Island has previously housed asylum seekers and, more recently, people evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
The centre is currently holding a Tamil family fighting deportation to Sri Lanka, after being taken from the Queensland town of Biloela.
Daniel McCulloch in Canberra