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Australia Shows Off Facility

Refugees: New center to house asylum detainees will enable closure of three camps.

July 11, 2002|From Associated Press

PORT AUGUSTA, Australia — Ringed by a high electric fence, microwave motion monitors and security cameras, the Baxter Reception and Processing Center is Australia's newest and first detention center built specifically to house asylum seekers.

The government Wednesday proudly showed off the new center built on the dusty outskirts of the isolated industrial town of Port Augusta in South Australia state.

Designed to hold 1,200 asylum seekers, the Baxter center will enable the government to close at least three of its existing five mainland centers, which have in recent years been the scene of riots, arson, mass breakouts and self-mutilation by detainees.

Australia detains all asylum seekers arriving here until their visa applications are processed--which can take three years.

Run by the Australian subsidiary of the U.S. private prison company, Wackenhut Corrections Corp., the existing camps have been criticized internationally and in Australia by the United Nations, Amnesty International and parliamentary committees for abusing human rights.

The Baxter center is still under federal government control.

Critics claim that the centers also psychologically damage the men, women and children in them, mostly refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

The government hopes Baxter will end the controversy plaguing its other camps, particularly the notorious Woomera center.

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said Baxter tries to mix humane living conditions with the needs of detaining people against their will.

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