21 September: Detention centres are being dramatically remodelled in a bid to riot-proof them, including ceilings and roofs being toughened or completely replaced.
The overhaul at Christmas Island and Villawood in Sydney’s southwest has come in the wake of riots last year when asylum seekers set fire to buildings during rooftop protests.
Internal ceilings have been hardened to prevent asylum seekers getting into roof cavities while tiles have been replaced with Colorbond to prevent a repeat of tiles being used as missiles.
Cabling on walls was also removed and placed underground to prevent asylum seekers scurrying up walls, a report by the Department of Immigration to parliament has revealed.
Some roller doors were replaced last month with hinged steel doors that “could withstand greater force” in the most recent work.
Guidelines to handle future riots are also in place which even affect detention medical centres.
At times of tension, staff will be required to remove pharmaceutical drugs and potential weapons from the health clinics.
Villawood has a new kitchen built outside of a “sterile area” to prevent detainees getting access to knives and kitchen implements to use during protests.
Future detention centres could have electrical wiring that would allow power to be isolated and switched off in areas where detainees are rioting while allowing CCTV cameras to continue recording disturbances.
A recommendation to rewire the existing detention centres was rejected as being too expensive but will be considered during future renovations.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen was unable to say how much the work cost.
“That work was done within the detention budget, so is detailed as part of the normal process at budget time,” he said.
Last May hundreds of asylum seekers protested at Christmas Island, burning down accommodation blocks and other buildings.
Detainees at Villawood staged an overnight rooftop protest last April when buildings were burned and tiles used as projectiles.
The remodelling comes as another plane-load of asylum seekers landed on Nauru yesterday morning – including the first six Iraqis.
Local authorities were told that four of those six were deemed “high risk”, however the Department of Immigration and Citizenship would not confirm this.
They stepped off the plane one-by-one, wearing only shorts, T-shirts, thongs and a pink identification band, before boarding a bus for the Topside camp.