Detainee hurt amid Christmas Island sit-in

DETAINEES on Christmas Island were refusing to comply with orders to return to the main detention centre last night.

The AFP transferred control as 20 Pakistani men evacuated to the Phosphate Hill compound during the March 17 riots refused to get on a bus to go back. Since Monday morning, they have been sitting in the compound on the other side of the island, engaged in what the department called a peaceful protest.

Last night, one of the men held at Phosphate Hill, but not involved in the sit-in, was taken by Royal Flying Doctor Service to Perth, after smashing a glass and cutting himself in a fit of anger. The Iranian man’s outburst is not regarded as a suicide attempt by authorities and his injuries are not considered life-threatening.

The handover of the main detention centre clears the way for asylum boats to be offloaded on Christmas Island again.

The Immigration Department last night confirmed new asylum-seeker arrivals would be brought to Christmas Island from today. Boats had been taken to mainland ports while the AFP was restoring order at the detention centre.

The island’s main centre has been calm since federal police took charge on the night more than 200 detainees ran riot, throwing rocks at police and torching buildings.

The AFP, which flew in 172 officers to deal with the unrest, has promised to stay on the island but concerns are building about conditions at mainland immigration detention centres such as Curtin and Scherger.

Those centres have filled in recent weeks as the Gillard government empties Christmas Island, and at Scherger detainees are living in tents.

The department yesterday confirmed there were no police at Scherger or Curtin to maintain order or prevent riots. AFP officers with public order management expertise had worked in the Christmas Island centre but were withdrawn eight months before the centre descended into chaos.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said yesterday he was worried about the conditions and potential for strife at the Curtin centre, where a young man hanged himself on Monday afternoon, as well as at the detention centre planned in Northam.

“We simply don’t have the police on the ground in either Derby or Northam to deal with a serious outbreak, should one occur,” he told The Australian. According to refugee advocates, the 20-year-old Afghan man who killed himself, Mohammad Asif Atay, was severely depressed after waiting almost a year for a decision on his asylum claim. He had not been denied a visa but was upset when he realised that asylum-seekers who arrived after him were already getting decisions.

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre campaign co-ordinator Pamela Curr said friends of Mr Atay had told her they banged down the door of his room after realising something was wrong, but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. Julia Gillard said the death was tragic news and would be thoroughly investigated.

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