A group of asylum seekers who attempted to arrive in Australia by boat has been sent to Nauru just months after the last people were removed from immigration detention on the Pacific nation.
Guardian Australia understands that a group of asylum seekers was intercepted in September and taken to Nauru. Staff of International Health and Medical Services have been asked to work on Nauru to provide health services to the cohort, believed to number 11.
An Australian Border Force spokesperson said it “does not comment on operational matters”.
In June Guardian Australia revealed the government intended to remove the last remaining asylum seekers from Nauru, a move that was applauded by refugee advocates when the job was completed in late June.
The detention centre on Nauru remains open at a cost of $350m (US$221 million) a year as a contingency to send people in the event of boat arrivals.
The Albanese government has maintained the Coalition’s Operation Sovereign Borders policies including boat turnbacks “where safe to do so”, and offshore detention – a suite of policies both major Australian political parties claim is necessary to deter dangerous journeys by sea.
The most recent OSB update for August said there were no new unauthorised maritime arrivals in that month. Data for September is not due to be released until the end of October.
On Wednesday the Albanese government released the Nixon review into exploitation of the visa system, renewing a war of words with the opposition leader and former home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, about control of Australia’s borders.
The home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, accused Dutton of “presenting himself as the tough guy who kept our border secure and our nation safe” when he had in fact presided over “a migration system that was used to facilitate some of the worst crimes in our society”, including human trafficking.
Dutton refuted suggestions he was weak on compliance and accused Labor of showing “no capacity to make the tough decisions to keep our borders safe”.
He said the Coalition had stopped the boats and “kept the boats stopped”. “We got all of the children out of detention that Labor put into detention.”
Dutton claimed that Labor had “presided over 105,000 asylum seekers [in Australia] over the course of the last 15 months – a record number in our country”, despite the fact many of those arrived under the Coalition and had been in Australia for many years.
Australia’s second iteration of offshore processing on Nauru began in September 2012. The number of refugees and asylum seekers held on the island peaked in August 2014 at 1,233 people.
At least 14 people have died in offshore detention since it was restarted in 2012, including being murdered by guards, through medical neglect and by suicide.
In June a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said Australia’s border policies had not changed and the Nauru processing centre stood “ready to receive and process any new unauthorised maritime arrivals, future-proofing Australia’s response to maritime people-smuggling”.
Guardian Australia contacted IHMS, the ABF, and O’Neil for comment.