Tue, Nov 10, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Australian officials lose control at migrant center

AFP, SYDNEY

Detainees set buildings alight and armed themselves with baseball bats in a riot at an Australian immigration facility on Christmas Island, people at the center said yesterday, with officials admitting the situation was out of control.

The disturbance at the Indian Ocean island center comes after the unexplained death of an escaped asylum seeker.

Detainees have complained about their treatment at the facility, which currently houses 203 men, including asylum seekers awaiting processing and non-citizens being deported because they have criminal convictions.

“Order or control hasn’t been regained within the center,” Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton told Sky News.

He added that no injuries have been reported, no damage has been inflicted to the perimeter fence and no one has attempted to escape.

The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection described the incident as a “major disturbance,” but denied there was a large scale riot.

“There is currently no large scale ‘riot’ involving the majority of the center’s population ... but the center remains tense and staff have been withdrawn from compounds for safety reasons,” a department statement said.

“A group of detainees, believed to be non-citizens whose visas have been canceled under mandatory cancelation provisions, continue to agitate and cause damage to the facility,” it added.

The department declined to specify the number of staff that had been evacuated when contacted by reporters.

The trouble followed a peaceful protest by detainees on Sunday after the discovery of the body of an Kurdish-Iranian asylum seeker, named by Australian media as Fazel Chegeni, who had escaped.

Police are investigating the cause of death, but Dutton, who was unable to confirm reports that the body was found at the base of a cliff, said he had been advised there were no suspicious circumstances.

The department said other detainees “took advantage of the situation to engage in property damage and general unrest.”

“A number of small fires have been lit within the center,” it said.

“There is believed to be damage to medical, educational and sporting facilities, but a full assessment is yet to be conducted,” it added.

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