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Fresh riot by asylum seekers on Australian island

SYDNEY, Mar 15 – Australia\’s remote Christmas Island detention centre was hit by a second night of riots on Tuesday, with up to 200 asylum seekers destroying closed-circuit television cameras.

It followed a "significant and serious incident" on Monday when police used tear gas to quell a protest of 300 detainees.

"We saw more protests last night. We saw some damage to property: some buildings were damaged, including by a fire, and some CCTV equipment was damaged last night," Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said.

The protests followed some 70 people breaking out of the centre, which sits on an Indian Ocean island some 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) northwest of Perth, on Friday, and a further 100 on Saturday.

All have since returned to the site, which houses some 2,539 boat people awaiting the processing of their applications to stay in the country.

Bowen said tear gas was not used in the latest unrest.

"No. No direct confrontation last night; no need for tear gas or any associated weapons last night," he said, adding that it was a small minority creating trouble.

"We\’ve seen an organised and orchestrated campaign on behalf of a minority of asylum seekers at Christmas Island," he said.

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"In fact, a number of asylum seekers have told Department of Immigration staff that they want nothing to do with this protest, that they have no role in it, and they are in fact quite annoyed and disappointed by what’s happening and what other detainees are doing."

Bowen denied that officials were losing control of the facility.

"I don\’t underplay the seriousness of this event or the difficulties of this event, because it is both serious and difficult and ongoing," he said.

"But the important thing is that I send the message … and I send in all instances like this: protest action like this achieves nothing, it does not achieve the desired result.

"In fact, it makes life more difficult for the other asylum seekers and slows processing."

More than 6,500 refugees — mostly from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka — arrived in Australia last year on boats from Indonesia, crowding centres to capacity and inflaming debate on Canberra\’s tough mandatory detention policy.


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