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Dublin: 15 °C Saturday 8 August, 2020

Riots break out in Australian detention centre

Police fired ‘bean bag’ rounds and used tear gas canisters to gain control over the centre last night.

Image: marragem via Flickr

PROTESTS AT AN Australian detention centre led to more than 200 rioters torching buildings in an effort to escape yesterday.

The crowded Canberra offshore detention centre saw a wave of protests from people trying to gain asylum in the country, officials said Friday.

More than 100 police firing non-lethal so-called bean bag rounds and tear gas canisters regained control over the detention center on Christmas Island after the riot started Thursday night.

Two administration buildings were burned as well as seven accommodation tents after more than 200 asylum seekers armed with bricks and poles and throwing rocks charged police and the perimeter fences.

Some rioters breached the perimeter wall and police were not yet sure whether all had been recaptured.

Two asylum seekers were taken to hospital, one with chest injuries and another suffering chest pains, Immigration Department official Sandi Logan said.

The riot follows a week of sometimes violent protests at immigration detention centres on the Indian Ocean island and on the Australian mainland over delays in processing asylum applications. Authorities are struggling to cope with increasing numbers of asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Sri Lanka who attempt to reach Australia by boat.

“A small group of detainees have made it clear that they would continue violent action until they were granted visas,” Bowen told reporters.

“We don’t let that sort of behaviour influence our consideration of visa applications.”

Authorities were responding to the riots by accelerating plans to relocate hundreds of the 2,500 detainees on Christmas Island to mainland detention centres to reduce crowding and by bringing in police reinforcements.

A total of 105 detainees, none of whom was involved in the fracas, were flown from the island Friday, while 70 police were flown in, bringing total police strength to 188.

Human Rights Commissioner Catherine Branson, the federal government’s rights watchdog, is concerned about processing delays which have left most of the 6,500 asylum seekers currently in Australia in detention for more than six months.

- AP

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