Riots at Aussie detention centre

SYDNEY • Australian opposition politicians yesterday demanded that the government disclose the extent of destruction caused by riots at a controversial immigration detention centre following the death of an asylum seeker.

Fences at the facility on the remote outpost of Christmas Island were torn down and fires started, forcing guards to abandon the facility and allowing access to vulnerable inmates by other detainees, reports said.

Christmas Island segregates detainees seeking political asylum, many of them from war-torn regions in the Middle East and Asia, from foreigners facing deportation for a variety of crimes.

Many detainees are convicts from neighbouring New Zealand, awaiting appeals.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told Parliament yesterday the unrest began late on Sunday night following the death of a man who had escaped the day before. The body of the man, identified by refugee advocates as a Kurdish asylum seeker from Iran, was discovered on Sunday at the bottom of cliffs away from the centre, the Immigration Department said.

Many detainees on Christmas Island are convicts from neighbouring New Zealand, awaiting appeals.

"Order or control hasn't been regained within the centre," Mr Dutton told Sky News.

Opposition Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who said the centre was "in meltdown", demanded that the government disclose the extent of the unrest and exercise restraint in responding to it.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key urged his citizens not to take part in any rioting, as it may further damage their legal standing.

Asylum seekers are a hot political issue in Australia. Successive governments have sent those intercepted on unsafe boats to Christmas Island, and more recently Manus island in Papua New Guinea and Nauru in the South Pacific.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2015, with the headline 'Riots at Aussie detention centre'. Print Edition | Subscribe