CANBERRA • Australia is preparing to remove the last four remaining children from its offshore immigration detention camps and fly them to the United States with their families for resettlement, the government in Canberra said yesterday.
Some 220 children have been languishing in the processing camps on the tiny island of Nauru in the South Pacific since 2013, but a massive protest campaign in Australia called Kids off Nauru, which started last year, has forced the conservative government to evacuate all of them.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who took over as leader at the end of August when there were still some 120 children in the camps, said yesterday it was a vindication of his government's policies. "Since then, and as was made clear at the time, we have been working quietly and methodically through this process without compromising the integrity of Operation Sovereign Borders," he said in a joint statement with Immigration Minister David Coleman.
He blamed the opposition Labor party for putting the children in detention centres, even though it was he - in his previous role as immigration minister - who oversaw the detention of asylum seekers and refugees arriving at Australian shores by boat.
In December, international medical charity Doctors Without Borders said the majority of those on Nauru were suffering from "inhumane" levels of mental health issues, with about a third of its patients attempting suicide, including children as young as nine.
Since 2013, Australia's government has been implementing a widely-criticised policy of incarcerating migrants and asylum seekers trying to reach the country by boat in offshore facilities.