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* Australia opens a military base to hold asylum seekers from Sri Lanka
Sun, Apr 18, 2010, 10:22 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Apr 18, Colombo: The Australian government is planning to re-open a detention center at the Curtin Air Base in Western Australia to hold Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum seekers whose applications for refugee status have been suspended.

Australian Associated Press quoting Federal Immigration Minister Chris Evans said today that the one-time detention facility located 40 km southeast of Derby in Western Australia's far north would initially be prepared to immediately accommodate about 60 detained single men.

The Minister has told the reporters that as a result of the Australian government's decision to temporarily suspend the asylum claims from the Sri Lankan and Afghan refugees, the government is making arrangements to open the new detention center.

"Previously, it's been used for this purpose and initially we'll be upgrading the facility to accommodate that cohort of persons who have had their asylum claims suspended. We need to find an appropriate secure facility to deal with these asylum seekers," the AAP report quoted Senator Evans.

The Curtin Air Base site was originally set up as a detention center in September 1999 and it was dismantled in September 2002.

The Australian government drew heavy criticism from humanitarian organizations for its April 8th announcement that effective immediately it has suspended the processing of new asylum applications from Sri Lankans for three months and from Afghan nationals for six months because the situations in both countries are "evolving",

The Minister has said that the first group of asylum seekers would be moved from Christmas Island detention centre to Curtin as soon as the upgrades to the facility were finished.

The Australian government expects the center which would be able to hold 200-300 asylum seekers initially, would be opened within weeks.

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