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SYDNEY: A notorious Australian immigration detention camp on remote Christmas Island has been shut, the government said on Friday, hailing the success of its hardline policies in ending a flood of asylum-seeking boat people.

The facility on the Indian Ocean territory some 2,300 kilometres northwest of the Western Australia city of Perth had been the site of riots, deaths and alleged rapes and self-harm since it was opened in 2008.

“The centre has now closed, with around 30 remaining detainees transferred to mainland detention facilities last weekend,” a spokesman for Immigration Minister David Coleman said. The centre was a key part of Canberra’s efforts to shut down the asylum-seeker smuggling trade, with arrivals sent to Christmas Island or other offshore Pacific camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

At one point, boats were arriving almost daily from departure sites in Indonesia and Sri Lanka carrying desperate migrants from Afghanistan and the Middle East, with some vessels sinking en route. Under a zero-tolerance policy followed by the conservative government since late 2013, boats were turned back and asylum-seekers were banned from resettling in Australia, eventually choking off the flow of illegal arrivals.

“At its peak in July 2013, there were more than 10,000 people held in immigration detention, including 2,000 children,” Coleman said as he blamed the previous Labour government for the arrivals.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2018