Asylum seekers on Christmas Island must be breathing a sigh of relief – they won’t be going to the horror refugee camps in Malaysia and nor will the 85 Iranians who arrived at the island on Saturday around the same time that Julia Gillard was making her announcement in Canberra. They are safe because the deal is not yet signed. The government’s plan to undertake an asylum-seeker swap with Malaysia is bad news for those already on their way and Immigration officials flew to the island on Saturday to implement the new arrangements for the first transfer of 800 asylum seekers by plane to detention in Malaysia.
The Detention Centre is on high alert with 108 Australian Federal Police ready for trouble. In March detainees took control of the centre for more than a week, knocking down fences and burning buildings to the ground. Police had to use beanbag bullets and teargas to regain control and they are concerned about aggressive behaviour from some detainees in recent weeks.
The Australian Federal Police began operations on 19 October 1979. The catalyst for its formation was the Sydney Hilton hotel bombing the year before and a realisation by the Australian government that an organisation was needed to deal with issues such as terrorism at a national level. The AFP provides community policing to the ACT, the Jervis Bay Territory, Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands and provides protective security for and on behalf of the Australian Government.