Australia offers to reopen South Pacific asylum centers

December 23, 2011 05:23

SYDNEY - The Australian government is prepared to reopen South Pacific asylum seeker detention camps to process boatpeople arriving from Indonesia in return for the country's opposition backing a plan for a regional asylum processing center in Malaysia.

The offer to reopen centers in Nauru, a tiny island 4,000 km (2,500 miles) northeast of Australia, or Papua New Guinea is a major compromise by the Labor government. The centers were established under the previous conservative government and closed by Labor.

The minority Labor government needs conservative backing in parliament to pass its plan for a Malaysian center, which has already been defeated once in the parliament.

"We need the Malaysia agreement because you need that disincentive. We need Malaysia plus we need one other," Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said on Friday

"Nauru by itself would be an expensive white elephant, but Nauru with an agreement with Malaysia would be an effective part of a regional solution."

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