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100 detainees riot at Australia immigration centre

10 june 2011, 17:46
Up to 100 asylum seekers rioted at Australia's troubled Christmas Island detention centre, and capsicum spray and "bean bag" bullets were used to restore order, AFP reports, citing officials on Friday.

Some of the rioters were armed with metal poles and pelted police and security guards with broken concrete during the protest that began late Thursday, the Australian Federal Police said.

One guard was injured, but not seriously.

"We can confirm there was a disturbance at the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre last night, involving between 80 and 100 people," the immigration department said.

"As part of the incident, the Australian Federal Police was handed control of two compounds for a short time to restore order to the facility.

"They have handed full control of the centre back to the detention service provider and the centre is now calm."

It was not clear what sparked the unrest although March riots at the facility began as a protest against the lengthy processing of detainees' refugee status claims.

Detention is mandatory for boatpeople arriving in Australia and most are taken to Christmas Island, leaving facilities there stretched and the atmosphere tense.

Some asylum seekers have been on the island for 18 months, with a record 6,900 arrivals in 2010 choking the system.

Police said tear gas was not used this time but capsicum spray and "bean bag" bullets were to bring the situation under control.

"Some of the protestors armed themselves with improvised weapons such as metal poles and broken concrete," police said in a statement.

"During negotiations, some of the protestors began throwing projectiles at police and security guards."

The purpose-built Christmas Island facility, which sits on a small Indian Ocean outcrop some 2,650 kilometres (1,650 miles) northwest of Perth, was last rocked by riots in March.

Then, about 250 inmates set fire to accommodation tents and hurled makeshift explosives at police, prompting them to respond with tear gas.

Scores of inmates also escaped the complex, with some hiding in dense jungle for days.

The latest disturbances come as Canberra finalises a controversial plan to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia for processing in exchange for accepting some 4,000 of the Southeast Asian nation's already registered refugees.

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