04:28 GMT +321 February 2019
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    Activists hold placards and chant slogans as they protest outside the offices of the Australian Immigration Department in Sydney, Australia, February 4, 2016

    Australian MPs Pass Migrant Medevac Bill in Major Blow to Ruling Liberal Party

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    Australian prime minster Scott Morrison's administration became the first in 90 years to have a major bill voted down in Parliament, losing by a narrow margin of 75-74.

    Fresh calls for parliamentary snap elections have come after MPs voted against the Migrant Amendment (Urgent Medical Bill) 2018 which allows refugees in offshore detainment facilities access to medical treatment in Australia, with the country's minority conservative government suffering a heavy political blow.  

    Despite the bill passing in the lower house, it will face scrutiny in the upper Senate before being adopted as law.

    Australia has been sending asylum seekers to detention centres on Manus and Nauru islands, and refused immigrants arriving by boat settlement rights since 2012. Women and children are traditionally held at Nauru, with high equatorial temperatures year-round, with single men kept at Manus, a peripheral island of Papa New Guinea.

    Previous Australian administrations have supported detention centres in order to prevent deaths by drowning at sea whilst travelling to Australia.

    "The legislation Labor passed in the House of Representatives today ensures that people in Australia's care can get urgent medical treatment when they need it," Australian Labour party leader Bill Shorten tweeted.

    "The Australian people understand our nation can be strong on borders and still treat people humanely," Mr. Shorten added. "We can preserve our national security and still look after people to whom we owe a duty of care. This legislation gets that balance right."

    According to a 2017 snapshot report on detention centres and immigration, nine facilities, including five high security immigration detention centres (IDCs) in Perth, Maribyrnong, Yongah Hill, Northest Point and Villawood operated on Christmas Island, which are used for adults deemed 'medium to high risk'.

    Three immigration transit accommodation (ITA) facilities in Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne operate under lower security protocols, and one immigration residential housing (IRH) facility in Perth provides "residential-style accommodation" the report said.

    The report added that the number of detained migrants had fallen dramatically to 1,364 held in centres as of the end of 2016, down from over 10,000 in 2013.

    The defeat comes after Canberra, along with governments in Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania and others refused to sign the UN Global Compact for Migration in Morocco, citing fears that the agreement would place restrictions on individual sovereign rights and migration policies. The pact is not legally binding and only encourages global cooperation on immigration, and was signed on 19 December.

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    bill, detention center, vote, immigrant rights, immigration bill, migrant accommodation centers, immigration laws, migrant detention center, Australian House of Representatives, Australian Parliament, Bill Shorten, Scott Morrison, Canberra, Australia
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