ANOTHER large-scale riot at Christmas Island, sparked by detainees learning their claims had been rejected, has coincided with a UNHCR report finding mandatory detention didn’t work and led to psychological harm.
Two asylum seekers remained on the roof of Christmas Island’s North West Point detention centre late yesterday, after a riot involving up to 100 people was quelled by federal police using bean-bag bullets and capsicum spray.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen described the incident as ”significant” and ”violent”. He meanwhile said the discovery of a leprosy case in the Villawood detention centre was concerning, but it had ”clearly not” been contracted at Villawood, and there was a ”very, very low risk” of the infection spreading.
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Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, who will travel to Nauru today, said the incidents and intervention of police showed the ”rolling crisis in detention centres”.
The Immigration Department yesterday warned detainees changes to the law before parliament would see anyone convicted over the incident potentially denied a visa.
Mr Bowen said: ”There are a number of people at the Christmas Island detention centre who have received negative refugee status assessments … Whenever there’s an event like this, protest does not affect visa outcomes … It could get exactly the opposite outcome because it can lead to you failing the character test.”
An Australian Federal Police spokeswoman said the detainees had armed themselves with metal poles and concrete, and police used force after projectiles were thrown at them. One Serco officer was injured.
The Refugee Action Coalition’s Ian Rintoul said the riot began when Serco staff tried to remove a person reacting badly to a rejection letter.
Separately, the UNHCR yesterday said there was no evidence internationally that mandatory detention deters illegal maritime arrivals.