News National Tear gas used on Christmas Island

Tear gas used on Christmas Island

Christmas Island Detention Centre
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Detainees who took part in a riot at the Christmas Island immigration detention centre face criminal charges after causing more than $1 million worth of damage.

The unrest was sparked after a small group of Iranian detainees staged a protest over the death of escapee Fazel Chegeni Najad, an Iranian Kurdish man, on Sunday.

Riot police stormed the centre on Tuesday after others joined the unrest, setting small fires around the complex, building barricades and threatening to use weapons.

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Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said five detainees sustained minor lacerations and injuries in the scuffles, and confirmed tear gas was used.

“The population has hardened within the Christmas Island immigration detention centre,” he said.

“While the number of boat people drops in detention, the number of people in detention who have been involved in serious criminal activity or had their visas cancelled through a failure of the character test – those numbers increase.”

Tear gas was used but he did not know if rubber bullets were fired, which a detainee reported to ABC radio.

Another detainee told the broadcaster some rioters had been armed with chainsaws and firebombs.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection said a core group of detainees had built barricades and threatened to use weapons.

Mr Dutton said a sixth detainee had been evacuated for “minor injuries and a medical condition unrelated to incident”, although a Greens source told reporters the man had been evacuated after trying to overdose, having helped himself to drugs from the medical centre.

He said those who damaged commonwealth property would be prosecuted once identified.

That could also include any asylum seekers who took part and potentially harm their chances of being grated visas.

The detainees who have already been convicted are either awaiting deportation or appealing.

Christmas Island Shire president Gordon Thomson said Mr Chegeni Najad died from injuries sustained when he fell into a pit as he ran through the dark after jumping the centre fence.

Mr Chegeni Najad was granted refugee status in Australia after fleeing persecution in Afghanistan, but was convicted of assaulting a fellow detainee at the Curtin immigration detention centre in WA in 2011.

His sentence was overturned on appeal, but the conviction stood.

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