Detainees protest on Christmas Island

12/18, 2010
Two separate protests involving more than 100 asylum seekers have erupted on Christmas Island, one taking place outside the island’s detention centre.

A Department of Immigration spokesman said the latest protest was not a “break-out” and detainees were moving back and forth between the centre and where the protest was taking place at its entrance.

Detainees held up signs and chanted “Help me, UN” on Friday in spontaneous protests following Wednesday’s disaster when a boat carrying asylum seekers, mostly from Iraq and Iran, smashed into rocks on the island leaving at least 30 dead.

Survivors of the boat tragedy are taking part and have shown their injuries to media located nearby and Department of Immigration officials were trying to persuade protesters to return to the detention centre, which houses 2700 people, Sky News reported.

The department spokesman admitted detainees had jumped a fence to get to the entrance.

“They are not causing trouble and not going out on to the street, the detention service providers are keeping an eye on them but it is peaceful and they are not going to push it,” he told AAP on Friday.

The protests had been triggered by Wednesday’s disaster as well as conditions at the centre, the Department spokesman said.

He said the protesters were emotional but there was no violence.

The first protest started about 2pm (WST) in an area called Phosphate Hill, involving about 50 people, including some who jumped internal fences to join in, said the spokesman.

The second protest started in another area nearby after the first ended.

“The protesters raised concerns that not enough action was taken to rescue passengers from the boat that sank,” he told AAP.

“It was peaceful; there was no trouble but a lot of emotion. It was not surprising they raised this issue, which has received a lot of coverage and is tragic.

“The other concerns raised were about services such as food and air conditioning; there was a power outage across the island so it affected residents in town but the clients were not happy about the lack of air conditioning.”

Australian Federal Police are present at the scene.

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