Australian police quell riot at detention camp

Government says it has ‘full and effective’ control of the prison after Kurdish refugee death sparked violent protests.

Customers choose products at a supermarket in Suzhou
Fazel Chegeni a Kurdish refugee from Iran was found dead on Saturday [Refugee Action Coalition/EPA]

Australian police have retaken control of an offshore detention camp holding asylum seekers after clashing with prisoners protesting the death of a Kurdish refugee who attempted to escape. 

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The country’s Department of Immigration said Tuesday that security forces had taken “full and effective” control of the camp located on Christmas Island, adding all detainees were accounted for.

“This morning’s operation to regain control of the centre and ensure the welfare of those not participating in criminal damage activities was achieved largely through negotiation and cooperation with detainees,” the department said in a statement published on its website.

“Some force was used with a core group of detainees who had built barricades and actively resisted attempts to secure compounds, including threatened use of weapons and improvised weapons.”

Violence broke out after the death of Iranian Kurdish refugee Fazel Chegeni on Saturday, two days after he escaped the facility.


Chegeni had attempted to enter Australia onboard a boat and was one of hundreds of people imprisoned on the island.

Australian activist group the Refugee Action Coalition said Chegeni was a victim of a “punitive detention regime that cares nothing for the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees”.

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“This is another needless death in detention – this time of a refugee who should never have been in detention. His mental health problems were well-known, and detention only exacerbated those problems,” the group said.

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Last week, human teeth were found in a meal served to an asylum seeker in the Manus Island detention centre, just a few days after almost 100 asylum seekers reportedly suffered food poisoning.

Ian Rintoul, an Australian refugee advocate who is in touch with asylum seekers on the island, said some managed to call activists and inform them human teeth were found in a lunch meal served to a refugee.

The Australian government’s Department of Immigration announced on Twitter it was investigating the incident.

“A few days ago over 100 asylum seekers and staff members were poisoned from the food at the Manus detention centre,” Rintoul told Al Jazeera.

“There are constant problems in these detention centres. Water is one of them. The sewage goes out to the bay and, if it rains, it washes up on the compound. The toilets are mostly non-functional too.”

Rintoul said asylum seekers had found ways to contact advocates and inform them of problematic issues, but of late raids were mounted to confiscate refugees’ phones.

“Nothing will change. The problems are created by the detention centres themselves,” he said.

Diana Al Rifai contributed to this report from Doha

 Islands used as detention facilities by Australia
 Islands used as detention facilities by Australia
Source: Al Jazeera