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Thursday 22 August 2019

Stand-off ends at Australian immigration detention camp

Photo: PA News
Photo: PA News

A stand-off between protesting detainees and officials at a remote detention centre for asylum seekers in the Indian Ocean has ended.

Police arrived following the unrest that prompted guards to flee the facility and left parts of the compound badly damaged, officials said.

Most detainees co-operated with police negotiators at the detention centre on the Australian territory of Christmas Island.

But officials used "some force" against a core group of protesters who had built barricades and had threatened to use weapons, the immigration department said.

Five detainees were being treated for injuries or medical conditions, though none was life-threatening, the department said.

A survey of the impact to the facility was under way, though some areas appeared to be severely damaged. Detainees were being held in undamaged parts of the compound.

The unrest broke out on Monday following the death of an asylum seeker who escaped from the facility. The man's body was found on Sunday at the bottom of a cliff on the island. The cause of his death is under investigation.

Immigration officials say a small group of Iranian detainees staged a peaceful protest following the asylum seeker's death, but other detainees then began damaging the property, lighting several small fires and prompting guards to retreat.

The people leading the unrest were not believed to be asylum seekers, but detainees who are being held at the facility due to their visas being cancelled, immigration officials said.

Australia last year strengthened its power to cancel visas, making it mandatory to do so if a person has been sentenced to at least a year in jail.

That has led to an influx of New Zealanders with criminal records - some of whom were long-term residents of Australia - ending up in immigration detention while they await deportation.

Some of them are appealing against the government's decision to revoke their visas.

"The government's not going to cower in the face of the activities of some of these criminals," immigration minister Peter Dutton said.

Australia has taken a tough stance in recent years on asylum seekers who try to reach its shores illegally.

Asylum seekers who pay people smugglers to take them in rickety boats to Australia from Indonesia are detained on Christmas Island and on the impoverished Pacific island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

PA Media

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