الخميس , يونيو 11 2020

Back-up sent to Australia migrant centre

Media captionDetainee: “It all started with the death of a detainee who tried to escape”

Police reinforcements have been sent to Australia’s Christmas Island detention centre to “restore order”, officials say, amid reports of a stand-off.

In a statement the immigration department said a group of detainees continued to engage in “non-compliant behaviour” overnight.

Facilities were damaged and some detainees lit fires, it added.

The unrest, which is into its third day, was sparked by the death of a detainee who had escaped the camp.

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.

Australia is facing renewed criticism from the United Nations over its treatment of asylum seekers.

The immigration department said it remains committed to resolving the situation “peacefully and quickly”, but it would “take action to protect people and facilities where an imminent threat exists”.

Reports said a hard core of detainees were still confronting guards and refusing to return to their cells. Detainees not participating in the unrest were moved to a secure part of the facility.

Inmate’s death ‘sparked riot’

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

Mr Chegeni had escaped from the facility on Saturday. His body was found at the bottom of a cliff on Sunday.

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

A report on Fazel Chegeni’s death is being prepared for the coroner

Ian Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition group, said that Mr Chegeni was “suffering the effects of long-term arbitrary detention”.

“He had told other detainees that he could no longer stand being in detention,” Mr Rintoul said in a statement.

But Immigration minister Peter Dutton told parliament he had been advised there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Chegeni.

He also told Australian television that the government will not be “cowered” into making changes to its controversial deportation policy.

‘Setting fires’

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Australia’s Department of Immigration has confirmed that inmates lit fires around the Christmas Island facility (file picture)

A detainee at the immigration centre told the BBC inmates were “angry” because they were not getting answers about Mr Chegeni’s death.

“Matt” said guards had left their posts and that detainees from a compound housing detainees with criminal records tried to enter his compound, where asylum seekers and those with expired visas stay.

One inmate, Tuk Whakatutu, is quoted as telling Radio New Zealand that a hard core of protesters, with weapons were in one of the compounds, which had been surrounded by police in riot gear.

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.

Australia asylum: Why is it controversial?


Media captionConditions in the Christmas Island detention centre are “appalling” according to Australian Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

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 Manus. The trial of a Salvation Army worker and a camp guard accused over his murder restarts later this month.

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