Sydney | A riot broke out in Australia’s migrant detention centre on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, authorities and NGOs said on Wednesday, with media reporting detainees torching buildings there.
The Australian Border Police (ABF) said an operation was underway to “restore order after disruption” at the North West Point Immigration Detention Center.
“A small number of detainees caused damage overnight in the facilities and continue not to obey orders,” ABF said in a statement, adding that no injuries were reported.
The Coalition for Action for Refugees, for its part, reports information from inside the detention center that two buildings were set on fire overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday.
“The extent of the damage is not known, but the glow of the flames and the amount of smoke in the air give the impression that the fires are important,” the NGO said.
George Newhouse, of the National Justice Project, claimed that the inmates were at their wits end due to the living conditions as they are confined to their rooms for up to 10 p.m. a day and cannot call their families due poor mobile coverage.
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“Federal government policy is to keep detainees in difficult and inhumane conditions to force them to leave Australia,” said Newhouse.
According to him, “these harsh and lonely conditions have an impact on the mental health and well-being of detainees.”
Police say the center accommodates “illegal non-citizens,” a phrase that refers to migrants whose residence permits have been revoked due to various convictions in Australia.
But she declined to give the number of inmates on Christmas Island. The Refugee Council of Australia claimed there were 220 detainees as of October 2020.
External Australian territory 1,500 km from the coast of the immense island-continent, and 350 km south of Indonesia, the island had become famous because the migrants arrested there were relegated clandestinely trying to reach the Australia.
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The government reopened the detention center, which had been closed for two years, in August, saying centers on the mainland were becoming full due to the lack of power to deport those in hiding due to the coronavirus.
The facility had also been used as a quarantine centre for Australians who had been evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan at the start of the pandemic.