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Nauru to process all asylum seekers in offshore detention centre 'within the next week'; refugees among those to assess applications.

By ANNA HENDERSON and STEPHANIE ANDERSON.

Refugees will be among those helping to process the remaining 600 asylum seekers in the Nauru immigration detention centre over the coming week, the Nauruan government says.

Nauru’s government has promised to process all asylum seekers in its offshore detention centre still awaiting an outcome on their application for refugee status “within the next week”.

The Nauruan government will more than double the number of staff involved in processing claims to 320, to deal with the week-long timeframe.

Community liaison officers, including 30 people who have already been granted refugee status, will process the asylum seekers.

Nauru has also announced the centre will become an “open” facility 24 hours a day from today.

It means detainees will be free to move around the island.

Nauru’s justice minister David Adeang confirmed the Australian Government would provide support with “safety, security and law enforcement”.

This will include increased assistance from Australian police, as well as increased health care and overseas medical referrals.

Comment has been sought from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

Mr Adeang said his government had been working towards a “more compassionate program” for a long time and had been waiting on confirmation of assistance from the Australian Government.

“The start of detention-free processing is a landmark day for Nauru,” he said.

The decision comes just days before a legal challenge examining the Australian Government’s role in the centre’s operation.

The full bench of the High Court is scheduled to hear a challenge to the lawfulness of the Government’s role in offshore detention on Nauru on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the Human Rights Law Centre’s director of legal advocacy Daniel Webb.

The president of the Refugee Council, Phil Glendenning, said the hearings may have “provided some sort of impetus” for the development.

Mr Glendenning told the ABC he held grave concerns for the safety of asylum seekers if they remained on Nauru, adding that the Australian Government had a “very serious” responsibility to ensure their safety.

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“For all intents and purposes, Australia is the architect of this,” he said.

Processing timeframe ‘a recipe for anarchy and violence’

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has questioned Nauru’s capacity to stand by its committed timeframe, labelling it “a recipe for anarchy and violence”.

In a statement, Mr Wilkie said the Australian Government should bring detainees to Australia for processing instead of leaving them on Nauru.

“How on Earth can they do it legally and humanely with 600 people in just a week?” Mr Wilkie said.

“There is no way the Nauru government would do this without the encouragement and imprimatur of the Australian Government. The Republic of Nauru is virtually a failed state and the government only survives with the benefit of Australian financial and other assistance.”

The developments will also see additional lifeguards on patrol on Nauru, to assist refugee families.

This follows deaths and injuries to refugees who were released from the island’s centre but were unable to swim.

Save the Children has welcomed the decision and urged the Australian Government to identify sustainable third country resettlement options for refugees whose claims are successfully processed.

A statement issued by the aid agency, which has provided services at the centre since 2013, said that countries needed to have a proven track record in providing adequate services for refugees.

“Now, more than ever, a permanent and sustainable solution is needed to provide clarity and a sense of hope for the future for those on Nauru,” Save the Children acting chief executive Mat Tinkler said.

The changes come three years after the first asylum seekers — 30 Sri Lankan men — were transferred to Nauru after the centre was reopened by the Gillard government.

The Rudd government had previously dismantled the Pacific Solution in 2008, seven years after the concept was introduced by former prime minister John Howard.

This post originally appeared on ABC Online.

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