Immigrant riot flares up in Australia

2011-07-20 10:00

Sydney - Australian police on Wednesday said they fired tear gas, sound and flash weapons and "bean bag" bullets to quell overnight riots at the Christmas Island immigration detention centre.

Immigration authorities said about 50 detainees were involved in the disturbance, which saw fires lit and police threatened with makeshift weapons at the centre, about 2 600km from Australia's mainland.

"(Police) members made a number of attempts to defuse and de-escalate the situation, but these were not successful," a police spokesperson said.

"AFP (Australian Federal Police) members had cause to deploy a range of use of force options, including less-lethal munitions (such as) bean bag rounds, (tear) gas, and sound and flash distraction devices."

"Bean bag" bullets are small cushions filled with lead shot that are fired from a shotgun, designed to temporarily disable targets.

It is the second time in as many months serious riots have rocked the remote centre, which is the cornerstone of Australia's mandatory detention policy for refugees and home to more than 1 100 boat arrivals.

Rooftop protest

Some of the group escaped their compounds but an immigration spokesperson said there was "no breach of the perimeter fence" and police had brought the incident under control without injury to detainees or staff.

One detainee was arrested and another was still staging a rooftop protest. Police remained on site, the spokesperson added.

Australia's immigration facilities are under strain from a record influx of boatpeople last year - almost 6 900 - and tensions have run high in crowded centres on both Christmas Island and at Villawood, in Sydney.

Up to 100 detainees rioted on the Indian Ocean island last month, and another 250 were involved in violent protests there in March over the slow processing of asylum claims, with some locked up for 18 months or more.

Nine buildings were torched in wild riots the following month at Villawood that involved up to 100 detainees.

Australia's mandatory detention policy has been criticised by human rights groups and the UN's refugee agency, with depression and suicide major concerns.

Refugees are a thorny issue in Australia, despite their relatively small numbers and the fact that many who arrive in leaky boats from Asia have fled strife in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Iraq.

  • Badballie - 2011-07-20 11:25

    Australia, come on Ozzie you have the same control strategies as America and the same attitude of total control at any cost, why not just load these immigrants onto planes and deport all of them back to their homelands, immigration is a concession not a right no one wanting to immigrate to Ozzie has any rights in respect of the process. Show the world that you will not take Cr*p from these people and that running away is never a solution, these people should be in their own countries fighting for the rights they want, not becoming a burden on another country especially when most of these immigrants are historically the ones who scream the loudest about the colonial evils of the white world.

      umlaut - 2011-07-20 11:54

      mugabe should do the honourable thing and invite them over and offer them citizenship in a his free country--maybe he can give them old collonial farms to squatt on--then they can migrate to good old colonial SA to further their African experience-----but are they not from Africa also already?

      Rajty - 2011-07-20 13:20

      Umlaut- what are you on about hey? Shame aussie is not so calm and peaceful after all.....

      Baloo - 2011-07-21 12:55

      Is this the samme advise you are giving all the thousands of South Africans that immigrated to Australia, UK & Canada? To come home and 'fight for the rights they want'? Or does it only apply to non-white immigrants? Just wondering....

  • Ebrahim - 2011-07-20 14:29

    Maybe the abrogines should deport all the foreigners from their country, especially the pale skin ex cons.

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