Christmas Island riot: Dutton confirms $10m damage bill as more detainees moved from centre to Perth

An image from Christmas Island detention centre released by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's office.

12 Nov – Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed the Federal Government is facing a $10 million damage bill in the wake of this week’s riot at the Christmas Island detention centre, with centre operator Serco suspending three staff.

Another 10 detainees were transferred from the island today, after seven detainees suspected of being involved in the riot were yesterday flown to a maximum security prison in Perth.

Just how many of the detainees were involved in the riots is not clear, as communication with people inside the compound has been limited since Tuesday.

An image from Christmas Island detention centre released by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's office.

Mr Dutton said on Wednesday people “need to understand what we’re dealing with here” as he described the population at Christmas Island as “serious criminals” who had access to fuel and a chainsaw during the unrest.

But Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said the government was “overstating” its depiction of the centre as a place dominated by hardened criminals.

The department said on Wednesday afternoon: “Repairs are under way on accommodation compounds in the centre as a priority, with detainees accommodated overnight in temporary but secure parts of the centre. Reports of detainees sleeping in ‘cages’ are false.”

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has released footage and images showing extensive damage to the Christmas Island detention centre following rioting there.

An image from Christmas Island detention centre released by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's office.    Christmas Island detainee in handcuffs after riot

The rioting began on Sunday evening following the death of Iranian Kurdish man Fazel Chegeni, whose body was found after he escaped the facility.

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Christmas Island: Riot at Australian detention camp after refugee’s death

One detainee is receiving medical treatment following the riot

10 Nov – A riot has erupted at a controversial offshore refugee-detention facility in Australia following the death of an asylum seeker.

Immigration officers and refugees confirmed on Monday a standoff between detainees and officers at the detention camp on Christmas Island, located more than 2,000km northwest of Perth in the Indian Ocean, after a Kurdish Iranian refugee died there.

Fazel Chegeni, in his 30s, was reportedly found at the bottom of a cliff.

“On Saturday morning [November 7] the department was advised of the escape of an illegal maritime arrival from Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre [CI IDC] by service provider staff.

“The matter was referred to the Australian Federal Police who commenced a search and discovered a deceased person today [November 8],” the Australian government said in a news release.

The Department of Immigration said staff and security have been withdrawn for security purposes and denied a large scale riot was taking place.

“The protest action began when a small group of Iranian detainees took part in a peaceful protest following the escape from, and death outside the centre, of a detainee on Sunday,” its news release said.

Currently, there are about 285 asylum-seekers at the Christmas Island camp. Section 501 of Australia’s Migration Act permits the deportation of a non-Australian citizen who fails the “character test”, the portal for which includes any prison sentence longer than 12 months.

A member of RISE, a rights group campaigning for refugee rights in Melbourne, said refugees heard the Iranian man screaming for help, then later saw him in a body bag.

“The detention centre detains asylum-seekers under administrative detention methods, just like Guantanamo and just like Palestinian prisoners in Israel,” she told Al Jazeera over the phone.

“These cases cannot be taken to court and the refugee him or herself sometimes does not know what they are doing there.

“They could claim they are investigating the asylum seeker, but in the end it is punishment.

“Those who arrive by boat are not allowed to have mobile phones with them, but those who arrive by plane are.

“And if they manage to sneak in mobile phones, security does random checks where they take them away.

“Between 2010 and 2011, there were five deaths in eight months in a detention centre in the suburbs of Sydney.

“Two detention centres were destroyed following that.

“The government does not learn from its past experiences.”

Twenty-five-year-old detainee Matej Cuperka told the ABC that ex-convicts who had their Australian visas cancelled after serving time in jail started the riot.

“The death [of the Iranian man] is very, very suspicious,” he said.

“They [the inmates who are rioting] believe Serco officers did something to him.

“I clearly heard him in the morning screaming for help, and the next thing I see they be bringing him in a body bag, and after that the whole place went into lockdown.

“About 30 people started a fight with the emergency response team in front of the medical [clinic] where officers left their stations and put the place in lockdown.”

“They are setting fires everywhere,” Mr Cuperka added.

“They started [on Sunday night]. They have broken into the canteen, into the property area, they started fires over there and now they starting in the compound.

“There are cars full of officers driving around the complex. They are just having a look through the window,

Another detainee, who stressed that he had not been involved in the riots, said “most of the compounds have actually been broken into, including the medical [compound]”.

“The canteen, I can see from where I’m standing now, has been completely ransacked and is burning as I speak to you,” he said.

“It’s a complete disaster zone.

“The compound that I’m in … there’s a lot of spot fires in there, all the cameras have been smashed up, all the kitchen has been smashed up, the offices have been breached and all the computers and everything has been broken up.”

Continue reading “Christmas Island: Riot at Australian detention camp after refugee’s death”

Christmas Island: protesters injured by riot squad

3 June: Reports from Christmas Island indicate that at least six people were taken by ambulance out of the detention centre following the bashing of peaceful protesters by the Federal Police riot squad.

Asylum seekers who witnessed the baton-wielding, helmeted riot squad attacking the protesters said they saw people whose faces and shirts were covered in blood. They have told the Refugee Action Coalition that besides the six transported out of the detention centre, other injured asylum seekers are being treated at the detention centre’s medical clinic.

It is believed that there are many injured hands and arms from the baton attack. Continue reading “Christmas Island: protesters injured by riot squad”

Christmas Island: Hundreds on hunger strike, seven stitch lips

I June: Around 75 asylum seekers who began their protest in solidarity with Reza Barati last Tuesday are in their sixth day of hunger strike – having slept Saturday night outside their compounds, in the rain.

In response to the protest, Immigration and Serco have locked down the whole of the detention centre, confining hundreds of asylum seekers inside their compounds.

Now the outside hunger strikers have now been joined by up to 300 other asylum seekers, Iranian, Iraqi and Rohingyan, in the locked down compounds. Hundreds are into their fourth day of hunger strike as the anger and frustration grows.

Seven Iranians in Gold and Green compound have also stitched their lips.

The protesters have been on the island for 10 and 11 months.

“We are getting tired with no activity. But they are always warning, you we will be sent to Manus Island or Nauru. We need freedom. The people outside in the rain are calling for freedom,” one asylum seeker said from inside the detention centre. Continue reading “Christmas Island: Hundreds on hunger strike, seven stitch lips”

Christmas Island: detainees on hunger strike

16 January: Family groups have joined a hunger strike on Christmas Island as protests spread to three separate compounds.The hunger strike began last week in the single adult male compound at north-west point, where some detainees also sewed their lips together.

A second hunger strike began at the Aqua family compound on Tuesday, according to detainees at the centre. The detainees have put up a banner bearing the word “freedom”. It is not clear whether children are also involved in the protest.

A third group are also protesting in the Lilac facility, which houses men and women. The protesters there staged a sit-in protest and wrote a letter to the Department of Immigration complaining about their treatment and expressing their fears of being sent to Nauru.

The protest was initially sparked by the separation of some asylum seekers from family members. Continue reading “Christmas Island: detainees on hunger strike”

Christmas Island: asylum seekers on hunger strike

August 25: Asylum seekers, potentially numbering in the hundreds, have gone on a hunger strike on Christmas Island to protest against being sent to Nauru for their claims to be assessed.

Afghan asylum seeker Imayat Ali told Fairfax by phone late on Friday that 238 people, including about 40 women and children – from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Sri Lanka – had been told they would be sent to Nauru, “and if we refuse … we would be deported to our home countries. So we’ve been doing hunger strike,” Mr Ali, 55, said. Continue reading “Christmas Island: asylum seekers on hunger strike”

2011: Detention Centres

Just some of many:

12 March –Christmas Island

At least 150 detainees break out of the detention centre. All Serco guards withdraw from the compound to search for them.

18 March –Christmas Island

As many as 300 detainees were involved in a protest that saw two administration buildings and seven accommodation tents burnt. Asylum seekers armed with bricks and poles charged police and the perimeter fences. Some rioters breached the perimeter wall. Police responded with tear gas and bean bag rounds. The protests started in response to a letter asylum seekers received from Canberra.

20 April – Villawood (Sydney)

At least nine buildings were set alight in a protest at Villawood Detention centre which involved up to 100 immigration detainees. The disturbance grew out of a rooftop protest by a number of asylum seekers.

Sandi Logan, an immigration spokesperson, said:

“From time to time, frankly quite unacceptable, quite appalling non-compliant behaviours have occurred.”

10 June –Christmas Island

About 100 detainees joined in an overnight protest when guards tried to take a detainee to the feared “red block” isolation unit. Detainees, some of whom armed themselves with metal poles and broken concrete, protested at the perimeter of the detention centre and pelted police and guards with projectiles.

This was the worst disturbance at the centre since riots in March, but there is said to have been some kind of disturbance at the facility, every night since the March riots, with at least three separate attacks on guards in the past month.

14 July – Villawood (Sydney)

17 People were caught while attempting a mass break-out from Villawood Detention centre

13-20 July –Darwin

A seven-day rooftop protest by five asylum seekers. 

19-21 July –Christmas Island

There were two nights of rioting at Christmas Island detention centre. More than 10 protesters on the roof of the detention centre set fire to sheets, and tents and rubbish bins were also torched. Serco guards withdrew from the detention centre as asylum seekers broke down fences and opened doors to allow free movement between the compounds inside the detention centre.

The major protest follows a series of smaller roof-top protests, and the lock down of the detention centre over the previous week. Federal police responded with tear gas and bean bag rounds.

September – Darwin

On two occasions over a number of weeks, 20-30 people buried themselves in a hole dug for construction in the compound. There were also daily protests by up to 70 detainees for several months, involving all nationalities in the detention centre– Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans, Burmese and Ahwaj Arab Iranian minority.

Proposals from Serco in response to the protests, to change the food, offer more fruit, bring singers into detention have only inflamed the tempers of the asylum seekers, who demanded an end to their long-term detention.

22 Oct – Scherger detention centre (far north Qld)

Following an assault on a Tamil refugee by a Serco officer, which left him with several broken teeth and a suspected broken nose among other injuries, other asylum seekers responded with a melee that left several broken windows and chairs. They surrounded the injured Tamil to prevent him being removed from the compound

8-10 November –Darwin

On Tuesday 8 November, people who had been detained for up to 22 months went on a rampage and destroyed computers, TVs, washing machines, tables and other fittings. Two days later there was another destructive protest, when Serco guards and Federal Police entered the compound to capture and remove about 10 men to Christmas Island as punishment.