Border force officers are still working to restore order to Christmas Island’s detention centre after a riot broke out overnight, with several buildings set alight.
Fires were lit at two of the detention centre’s four compounds, Refugee Action Coalition’s Ian Rintoul told AAP on Wednesday. He also said detainees had made their way to the compound’s rooves.
“A small number of detainees caused some damage to the facility overnight and continue to be non-compliant,” the Australian Border Force said in a statement.
“The centre remains secure and the majority of detainees are not involved. There are no reports of any injuries to staff or detainees.”
A detainee on Christmas Island, a New Zealand national who withheld his name for fear his comments would jeopardise his legal case, said the riot started after ABF denied detainees’ request to hold a peaceful protest.
“We were turned away with no negotiations and from that all the pent-up frustrations over the treatment of detainees here boiled over,” he said.
He said detainees were held in their compounds for 22 hours a day, only able to access a shared area with activities and exercise facilities for two hours per day.
“There’s literally nothing to do in the compound,” he said. “A dog and a guinea pig has more freedom.”
The detainee said fire continued to burn on Wednesday afternoon, the fences separating the compounds had been breached, and that officers had abandoned the centre.
The detainees are also upset at the poor internet connection and mobile phone accessibility on Christmas Island.
The wi-fi was not fast enough to allow video calls, the detainee said, and does not work in the men’s rooms.
There is also concern about a lack of medical personnel and equipment on the remote island.
“We are very upset about our actions but we have no choice,” the detainee said. “We’re like caged animals; you back a caged animal up to a corner, it’s gonna attack.”
The government began to send detainees to Christmas Island’s North West Point detention centre again last August.
Some 225 people were detained in the centre at the end of November, government figures show.
The population at the detention centre is largely people whose temporary visas have been cancelled after criminal convictions.
Gold Coast woman Taylor Sloane told AAP she had just said goodnight to her partner, who is detained on Christmas Island, on Tuesday evening when he called her back.
“He was like, ‘aaaah, the place is on fire’ … someone just came and knocked on his door and said to pack your things, there’s a fire happening,” she said.
Ms Sloane’s partner is a New Zealand national who was transferred to Christmas Island from Perth’s detention centre after his release from jail.
“It’s terrifying,” she said.
“Honestly, I did not really sleep much last night because I was like, you just don’t know what’s going to happen … if the whole place goes on fire, especially them being on Christmas Island, where are they going to go?”
Ms Sloane said everything had been more difficult since her partner was transferred from a mainland detention centre to Christmas Island, which she said was “horrible”.
“We went from being able to talk and communicate to all his lawyers and getting those things organised, to then when he first got moved they didn’t have internet for the first while that they were there, it felt like going back like 10 years,” she said.
She has not been able to visit her partner in the eight months he has been in immigration detention.