Christmas Island Detention Center Riots End After Police Called In

Australian police have quashed a two-day riot at a detention center on the country's remote Christmas Island, south of Java. Detainees had been protesting since Sunday following the death of an Iranian Kurdish refugee who had attempted to escape the compound.

Though the protests, led by a group of Iranian Kurds, began peacefully they soon turned violent with residents lighting fires and damaging the center's medical, health and educational facilities. Staff were withdrawn from the center and police reinforcements, armed with tear gas, arrived early on Tuesday.

Australia's immigration department announced in a statement released on Tuesday that the center was back under the staff's control though some areas had been "severely damaged." It added that all the detainees have been accounted for, but that five were injured. It is not clear whether these injuries were sustained during the police operation—the department admits that "force was used" on a group of detainees who had built barricades and possessed "improvised weapons."

According to the AFP some of the center's residents were armed with machetes and petrol bombs. Separate reports, cited by the BBC, claim that the police used rubber bullets on the protesters, an allegation that the country's immigration minister Peter Dutton has been unable to confirm.

The body of Fazel Chegeni was found at the bottom of a cliff on Sunday, a day after he had escaped the center. Though the circumstances surrounding his death were deemed non-suspicious by Dutton, protests spread among the detainees. Dutton blamed the worst of the unrest on "a hardened criminal population that occupies the immigration detention center."

The compound, which houses 203 people, is home both to asylum-seekers and non-Australian citizens whose visas have been cancelled under mandatory cancellation provisions. The center on Christmas Island is one of three such facilities, the other two being on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, the world's smallest republic.

The three facilities have been widely condemned by human rights groups. In a report published in July this year, Australia director for Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson slammed the offshore detention center in Papua New Guinea as a "disaster," saying, "Even the few people provided refugee status have been denied freedom of movement and the right to work. All should be allowed to move on with their lives in dignity and security."