Australia migrant center standoff ends | The Daily Star
10:59 AM, November 10, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:54 AM, November 10, 2015

Australia migrant center standoff ends

A stand-off between detainees and police at a migrant detention centre on Christmas Island has ended, Australian immigration authorities have said.

The immigration department said all areas of the facility were now under "full and effective control" after negotiations with the detainees.

The disturbances began on Sunday after a detainee who had escaped the camp was found dead outside.

Inmates lit fires inside and barricaded themselves in a compound with weapons.

Immigration authorities said five detainees had non life-threatening injuries or medical conditions, but it was not clear whether they were sustained over the last three days of unrest or after police moved in.

'Group of criminals'

Police reinforcements arrived at the detention centre early on Tuesday to restore order. Reports said a hard core of detainees were confronting guards and refusing to return to their cells.

"Some force was used with a core group of detainees who had built barricades and actively resisted attempts to secure compounds, including threatened use of weapons and improvised weapons," authorities confirmed in a statement.

Some common areas appear to be severely damaged, it added.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton blamed the disturbances on "a core group of criminals".

"We have been very clear about the fact that the government's not going to cower in the face of the activities of some of these criminals," he said.

Inmate's death 'sparked riot'

Christmas Island is a remote outpost located 2,650km (1,650 miles) north-west of Perth and 380km south of Java in Indonesia.

It is part of Australia's network of offshore processing centres for irregular migrants who arrive by boat, and also houses New Zealanders facing deportation from Australia.

The unrest started when a group of Iranian inmates staged a protest about the death of an Iranian Kurd, Fazel Chegeni.

Chegeni had broken out of the facility on Saturday. His body was found at the bottom of a cliff on Sunday.

Dutton told parliament he had been advised there were no suspicious circumstances.

It is difficult to verify information about what happens on Christmas Island as the media are generally barred from reporting there.


The Christmas Island centre

§  The current detention centre at North West Point on Christmas Island opened in 2006.

§  The government outsources running of the centre to private contractor Serco.

§  All 203 detainees are men - around 40 are New Zealanders awaiting deportation after committing crimes and losing their visas.

§  Human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs voiced "grave concerns" for asylum seekers after visit the island in July 2014.

§  All children were transferred off Christmas Island by the end of December 2014.

Controversial policy

Australia sends intercepted asylum seekers to Christmas Island, Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and Nauru in the South Pacific.

The government says the journey the asylum seekers make by sea to reach Australia is dangerous and controlled by criminal gangs and they have a duty to stop it. Critics say opposition to asylum is often racially motivated and is damaging Australia's reputation.

The policy was branded a “disaster” by Human Rights Watch's Australia director in July. The group also raised concern over conditions at the Manus camp.

Last February, an Iranian man was killed during a riot at the camp on Manu. The trial of a Salvation Army worker and a camp guard accused over his murder restarts later this month.

Australia is facing renewed criticism from the United Nations over the policies, with the US, Britain and others using a UN forum to say it should stop turning back boats and close the offshore centres.


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