Christmas Island situation tense
THE situation at the Christmas Island immigration detention centre has been described as difficult but not out of control.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen warned the protesters that their actions would not achieve the desired result and it only slowed processing and made life more difficult for other asylum seekers.
He said there had been a serious incident two nights ago when Immigration Department officials and employees of the company Serco call in Australian Federal Police who used tear gas against protesters.
Asked if the government had lost control of the detention centre, he said he didn’t think so.
‘‘ Clearly we have a difficult situation with ongoing tension but it is being managed,’’ he said. Mr Bowen said AFP were highly trained and experienced i n managing t hese s orts of events.
Mr Bowen said the unrest stemmed from the decision to place 10 ringleaders into cells at the detention centre, with others seeking to free them.
He said some of those protesting had had their asylum applications rejected, while others were concerned that processing was taking too long.
‘‘ Last year, I foreshadowed that we were likely to see more protest action, as our refugee recognition rates were falling, as we were saying to more people ‘ sorry you are not a genuine refugee, you will need to return’,’’ he said.
Mr Bowen said an extra 57 police had gone to the island, taking the AFP contingent to more than 80.
He said the AFP had assured him they had enough police to handle the situation.
As well, more than 60 extra Serco staff were on the island.
Mr Bowen said he had been advised that ‘‘ the vast majority if not all detainees’’ were back in the detention centre.