New Zealand born Ricardo Young has spent nine weeks at the Christmas Island detention centre. Photo / Supplied
New Zealand born Ricardo Young has spent nine weeks at the Christmas Island detention centre. Photo / Supplied

Christmas Island chaos: Riot police storm centre

RIOT police have stormed the embattled Christmas Island detention centre, allegedly using gas canisters and rubber bullets to restore order.

It is understood the guards entered the facility around dawn on the island.

There were reports of some detainees barricading themselves inside with petrol bombs, machetes and chainsaws after raiding a garden shed for weapons.

The unrest began in the early hours of Monday morning after upset refugees asked officials what happened to refugee Fazel Chegeni, whose body was found on Sunday following his escape from the detention centre.

The detention centre is run by controversial private prison operator Serco, which hit headlines in New Zealand this year after a series of scandals emerged at Mt Eden prison.

Two bus-loads of guard reinforcements were trucked to Christmas Island overnight, patrolling the perimeter of the centre, as sirens sounded for hours on end.

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Labour corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis said some of the detainees had barricaded themselves in their compound and were "terrified".

"They said 'They're coming in'. Gas canisters have been allegedly fired off, rubber pellets have been allegedly fired off.

"One guy claims to have been hit in the leg by one...the guys that I spoke to were in their cell, barricading themselves and keeping themselves safe.

"It was pretty chaotic, there was a lot of noise in the background.

"It could be all over by now to be honest, it was a David versus Goliath situation. I just hope everyone's OK."

Other detainees said the sprinklers had been turned on and were flooding the compound.

"The riots squad's all geared up ready to come in. Everything's barricaded up, all the young fellas are all tooled up.

"They've got petrol bombs, they've got machetes, they've got chainsaws, metal bars all sorts," Kiwi detainee Tuk Whakatutu told Radio NZ.

Christmas Island detainees 'bracing for a fight'

DETAINEES are bracing themselves for a fight at the embattled Christmas Island detention centre this morning, after riots saw fires, smashed-in walls and caused guards to flee from the centre yesterday.

Armed police are expected to descend on the facility today and sirens have been going off for the last six hours, detainees say.

It is understood the unrest began in the early hours of Monday morning after upset refugees asked officials what happened to refugee Fazel Chegeni, whose body was found on Sunday following his escape from the detention centre.

The lights were turned off as the riots started and there were no guards in sight for hours, detainees said.

Gas canisters were reportedly unsuccessfully used in an attempt to quell the unrest.

Australian authorities have flown in extra resources overnight to relieve staff at the centre.

An Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection spokesperson said some service provider staff re-entered the site and were in control of "central facilities" such as the health clinic and administration areas.

The perimeter of the centre remains secure, with regular patrols, the spokesperson said.

"The additional resources will ensure there are no time constraints on efforts designed to resolve the situation through negotiation without further property damage and without injury to individuals," the spokesperson said.

Labour corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis - who visited the island recently and is in contact with a number of detainees - said the men inside were bracing for a fight.

"One of them said to me: 'I'm not going to throw the first punch. If they come in, I'm going to let them hit me but I'm going to hit back'. It was almost like he was going off to battle and not expecting to come back.

"I'm picking that come 3am or 4am in the morning when the detainees are at their very lowest ebb, they'll be attacked by riot squads.

"They're terrified. They don't know if they're going to be alive. They certainly are bracing themselves for broken bones."

Mr Davis previously told NZME News Service the situation "basically just went mad" after one detainee was allegedly assaulted by a guard.

He said it was "absolutely sickening" the New Zealand Government was not stepping in.

Prime Minister John Key said it was likely New Zealanders were involved in the riots, but he did not have official confirmation of that.

"My office has had an update...we're obviously aware of what's taking place there. It's a difficult situation to get all the facts on," he said.

"My understanding is that there could be a small number of New Zealanders involved but we haven't been advised of any injuries to New Zealanders."

He said the detainees might be damaging their own appeals.

New Zealanders on Christmas Island should contact the Government if they had concerns, Mr Key said.

"My concerns would be that, like a riot at any corrections facility, there can and may well be consequences as a result.

"These are people who are theoretically staying on Christmas Island, choosing not to come back to New Zealand...now the risk is that they actually damage their own appeals because they undertake other criminal activity when they're there."

New Zealand detainee Lester Hohua said the rioting at Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre had been brewing.

Over-crowding and alleged assaults by the emergency response team (ERT) had put the detainees, including about 40 New Zealanders, at "breaking point", he said.

"This was always going to happen," Mr Hohua told NZME News Service.

"You can only back someone into a corner so much."

There were fears the guards would return with guns, he said.

Only a "small handful" of detainees began rioting after the alleged assault and most of the detainees held a "peaceful protest: by sitting down in the middle of the field, Mr Hohua said.

Last night, Mr Hohua said the detainees were frightened.

"[The guards] driving around the perimeter. We've had word that they are here and are probably gearing up," he said.

"We're all in back in our compounds, sitting and waiting."

- NZME.



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