Police use tear-gas to quell riot on Christmas Island

TENSION at the Christmas Island detention centre has boiled over, with federal police using tear-gas and bean-bag bullets against asylum seekers for the third time this year.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said 50 people were involved in the latest riot.

Refugee advocates said up to 200 people were involved and they had acted in defiance of tough new laws threatening to revoke visas if convictions are recorded against asylum seekers.
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One man has been arrested and another man remained on the roof of the North West Point centre late yesterday.

Police used less lethal munitions such as bean-bag rounds, CS gas, and sound and flash distraction devices to control the situation, a spokesman said.

Refugee advocate Jamal Daoud said Iranian and Kurdish asylum seekers had torched rubbish bins and tents and were reacting to a high rejection rate for recent refugee claims and the slowness of processing claims.

Mr Bowen said it was a ”significant event” and computers and kitchen areas had been damaged.

”I don’t think it’s a symptom of the long waits. I think it is a symptom of having a majority of people on Christmas Island who are on negative pathways, who have been told they are not refugees,” Mr Bowen said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said: ”I’ve got a very clear message to anybody involved in that incident, which is: you don’t get any changes to the process or to the treatment of your claims by misbehaving.

”Indeed, if you misbehave and commit a criminal offence, that can count against you, because there’s a character test for getting a visa,” she said.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor said: ”If people are wanting to have their applications for asylum properly processed, this is not the approach you take.

”I would say to those who think they can engage in this activity, think again, because as a result of the changes the government has made to the character test, the chances of them seeking asylum or having themselves properly processed can, indeed, be affected by such behaviour.”

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the continued riots would be examined by a joint parliamentary inquiry into the immigration detention network.

”Once again, Australian staff working at the detention centre have been put at risk.

”Once again, taxpayer-funded facilities have been set alight and damaged.

”Once again, federal police have been called on site to quash rioters,” Mr Morrison said.


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