POLICE have fired teargas and beanbag rounds at asylum seekers on Christmas Island for two consecutive nights as riots gripped detention facilities.
With the immigration detention system buckling under strain, a boat carrying another 52 asylum seekers reached Australia’s shores yesterday and a hunger strike began at a Queensland detention centre.
The Government is still battling to get its Malaysian deal signed, in which asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat would be swapped for processed refugees.
About 460 asylum seekers have arrived by boat since the deal was flagged in May, and they are in limbo while they wait for a third country to process their claims.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen defended delays for the second consecutive day, and lashed out at asylum seekers on Christmas Island who had taken part in violent riots.
“People undertaking this sort of activity are achieving nothing except potentially their release from detention and transfer into a prison,” he said.
Mattresses and a temporary building were set on fire on Wednesday night, 24 hours after wheelie bins were set alight and police quashed riots.
A spokesman for the Federal Police said about 30 detainees had breached compounds and lit fires.
“In response to the incident, AFP members were required to deploy a range of use of force options, including bean bag rounds and CS gas,” he said.
Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said asylum seekers were increasingly desperate.
He said about 60 Hazara refugees in Queensland’s Scherger detention centre had begun a hunger strike.
Some refugees had waited 22 months for processing.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said another boat arrival discredited Mr Bowen’s claims this week that his Malaysian deal announcement had halted the flow of illegal maritime arrivals.
The minister was using “spin” to deflect from chaos in the detention network.