Two escapees arrested on Christmas Island

Federal police have arrested two men believed to be escapees from the Christmas Island detention centre following mass breakouts and riots at the troubled facility.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) operations commander Rob Gilliland told reporters on the island on Tuesday the two men were taken into custody about 9.30am (local time) and were now being interviewed.

“They were found in the bushland area adjacent to the Northwest Point immigration detention centre.”

He said AFP officers conducting searches around the centre “found these two individuals in the jungle.”

The AFP now controls the centre and the facility’s contracted operator, Serco, is carrying out a second head count to determine if all the detainees are now accounted for.

Just before riots broke out at the centre last week, there were mass breakouts with up to 170 escapees roaming the island unchecked, heightening safety fears in the Christmas Island community.

In last week’s riots, accommodation marquees and small buildings were burnt down as police battled rock-throwing rioters with tear gas and “bean-bag” bullets.

Commander Gilliland said a head count conducted over the past 24 hours had identified inconsistencies, so a second head count was underway.

“We are also undertaking a series of extended search patrols around the Northwest Point area, in the jungle,” he said.

A night-time curfew has been imposed at the centre and the perimeter fence has been electrified.

AFP officers in riot gear on Monday entered detention compounds and separated out selected detainees to move them to other areas.

Commander Gilliland said police had significant resources on the island to ensure the detention centre was a “safe and secure environment” and to protect the interests of the Christmas Island community.

Around 190 AFP officers are now on the island after reinforcements were flown in to quell the riots and restore order.

Numbers of detainees at the centre are now down to under 2,000 from a peak of over 3,000.

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