Six hurt as Australia breaks up immigration camp protest

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia said on Tuesday a week-long protest by asylum-seekers at one of its immigration detention centres had been broken up with six people injured.

Refugee activists said hundreds of would-be refugees at the Christmas Island compound, about 2,600km from the western city of Perth, were refusing food. They claimed seven had sewn their lips together.

The protest was against the death of Iranian Reza Barati, who was killed in a wild riot this year at another Australian detention centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, which left 69 others injured.

The Refugee Action Coalition claimed "the baton-wielding, helmeted riot squad attacked the protesters" on Christmas Island and people were "covered in blood".

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the protesters were asked to disperse and "the majority were compliant".

"However, I am advised a small number exhibited non-compliant behaviour." He said negotiations continued and "reports to me suggest some detainees became aggressive and were subsequently restrained and moved".

"I am advised that two detainees suffered minor injuries arising from non-compliant behaviour and were treated on site," he added.

"A further four detainees were taken to hospital for a range of injuries including suspected sprains or broken bones. One detainee has suffered an injury to his wrist." He said the facility was now calm.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she has been contacted by people who work inside the centre who were "very concerned there was an over-reaction" to the protest.

"There are reports that violent clashes have occurred that have left asylum seekers terribly injured," she said.

Under Australia's offshore detention policy, asylum-seekers arriving by boat are now sent to camps in Nauru or Papua New Guinea for processing and permanent resettlement after a short turnaround period on Christmas Island.

They used to be held indefinitely at the Australian Indian Ocean island before offshore processing came into effect in July last year. Many who arrived before then still remain on Christmas Island.

The policy places no limit on the length of time they can be locked up.

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