Australia: Immigrants bury themselves

2011-07-22 12:00
Sydney - Inmates at Australia's Christmas Island immigration centre buried themselves in shallow graves in a symbolic gesture, a spokesperson representing them said on Friday, as riots erupted for a third night.

Immigration officials said there had been "another significant incident" involving up to 100 detainees at the remote island facility, but there were varying accounts of the latest protests among the asylum seekers.

Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul said some were digging shallow graves and burying themselves up to their necks in a show of their growing desperation.

"Asylum seekers in the Green compound have dug shallow graves in the courtyard of their compound," said Rintoul, who keeps in regular telephone contact with detainees at the centre.

"Some asylum seekers have already staged mock burials and buried themselves up to their necks in a symbolic protest that detention is killing their bodies and their minds."

A police spokesperson said "the detainees used improvised weapons and lit a number of fires in a number of locations within the centre".

Police raid

There was "cause to deploy a range of use of force options, including less-lethal munitions", she added, confirming tear gas, flash grenades and "bean bag" bullets were fired to quell the unrest.

It is the third consecutive night the centre has been rocked by violence and fires as detainees protest against delays in processing.

An immigration spokesperson refused to comment, saying "there's been all sorts of claims made by all sorts of people".

"We wouldn't be going into those details," he said. "All we are saying is that there's been some unrest."

Rintoul said police had raided the centre's compounds early on Friday searching for the protest's ringleaders and some detainees had been beaten or dragged away, presumably to the maximum-security unit.

The police spokesperson said the force "strongly denies any mistreatment of any detainees" and had not received any official complaints.

International observers

The immigration department could not immediately confirm that anyone had been moved and said it did not "generally go into details of operational things like that".

Australia has a mandatory detention policy for asylum seekers arriving by boat and a record influx of about 7 000 boat people last year has placed the system under strain, with some detainees locked up for 18 months or more.

Rintoul said the protesters wanted human rights and media representatives allowed into the centre to witness conditions and had told him "we cannot get justice from the Australian government or immigration. We want international observers to give us protection".

Canberra recently beefed up the asylum character test so that detainees convicted of offences can be deported and the immigration spokesperson said anyone found guilty over this week's riots had put their visa at risk.

About 40 asylum seekers were on hunger strike at a separate facility in Queensland, officials said, and were holding up protest banners in an outside area.

The unrest comes as Australia prepares to finalise an agreement to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in exchange for 4 000 registered refugees living in the Asian country.

Read more on:    australia  |  refugees

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.