Monday, March 21, 2011



Screenshot from a Video Of Christmas Island Riots, uploaded to YouTube

Australian Federal Police officers used tear gas and "bean bag" bullets to quell unrest in sections of the Christmas Island facility - home to 2398 detainees - which were burnt down by asylum seekers unhappy with centre conditions and delays to the processing of asylum claims.The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office has described the response to the protests at the Christmas Island immigration detention centre as "highly inappropriate", according to a report onAdelaideNow.

"The use of tear gas and bean bag rounds fired by shotguns is a highly inappropriate method for managing this situation," said ACMRO director Father Maurizio Pettena CS.

In a media release, Fr Pettena said that the protests by asylum seekers at the facility were an "understandable reflection of the conditions of detention".

"The frustration involved with been locked up for the duration of the application process is
immense and we need to consider more appropriate and humane responses to this issue."

According to the statement, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Australian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International all report on overcrowded conditions, lack of health and legal services, insufficiently qualified government and contractor staff, insufficient interpreter services, isolation, depression, hopelessness, despair, anxiety, self harm, suicide and attempted suicide in Australian immigration detention centres.

"Proper management should include effective legal representation, sufficient mental health and
medical care, and expedient processing of claims", Fr Pettena said.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Friday announced an independent inquiry into conditions on Christmas Island, The Advertiser report said. It will examine security breaches, centre infrastructure, staffing, and the role of Serco, the private contractor that manages the facility.

He warned asylum seekers involved in the unrest risked having their refugee claims rejected. "There is no excuse for violent and extreme behaviour," he said.

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