Detainee protest spreads to Christmas Island

A small group of detainees has staged a protest on the roof of a block at the Christmas Island detention centre.

Tuesday’s protest occurred as federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and his immigration spokesman Scott Morrison visited the island detention centre for a briefing, but it was unclear if they were anywhere near it at the time.

The latest action comes as a few detainees continue a rooftop protest at the Villawood detention centre in Sydney, where up to 100 rioters burnt down buildings last week.

Detainees are angry over lengthy delays in processing and the rejection of asylum claims.

A Department of Immigration spokeswoman told AAP that earlier on Tuesday eight detainees at the Northwest Point facility on Christmas Island had climbed onto a roof to stage a protest but by mid-afternoon only two were still on the roof.

She said staff of Serco, the private operator contracted to run the centre, were talking with them, encouraging them to come down.

The island detention centre was the scene of mass break-outs and riots in March when accommodation tents were burnt down and federal police used teargas and bean-bag bullets to quell rock-throwing rioters.

Meanwhile, dozens of mainly Afghan detainees at the Curtin Immigration Detention Centre in Western Australia’s Kimberley region had agreed to end a four-day protest at an outdoor recreation area and had dispersed, the spokeswoman said.

But, she said, she did not know if 12 detainees who advised centre staff they were on voluntary starvation were continuing with their hunger strike.

At the Christmas Island centre at the weekend, a detainee sewed his lips together to protest against the way authorities had treated his asylum claim.

He was treated at the medical centre and his lips were now unsewn, the spokeswoman said.

On Tuesday, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced the government would toughen laws to deter violent behaviour at detention centres.

The proposed changes would mean anyone convicted of criminal conduct while in immigration detention would automatically be denied a protection visa under character-test rules.


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