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March 11, 2010

Drop the ‘riot’ charges against Xmas Island asylum seekers

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media release March 11

The Refugee Action Coalition has called for the government to drop the charges against the 2 Afghan and 9 Tamil asylum seekers charged with riot, assault and carrying weapons. The 11 detainees were charged following a so-called riot in the Christmas Island detention center last November.

The Christmas Island detainees appeared today in the Christmas Island magistrates court to plead not guilty to all charges.

“The charges are vindictive and should be dropped. There is nothing to be gained by pursuing these charges. It has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with the government’s domestic agenda of trying to show that they are tough on asylum seekers. There was no property damage.

“The fight that occurred between the Tamils and the Afghans was a product of the overcrowding and the tensions caused by long-term detention. The people involved have been living together since the fight,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

RAC is also calling for the detainees to be moved back to the main compound.

“These detainees are not guilty until proven otherwise. Punishing them by keeping them in the Red Compound and now Alpha Compound amounts is an abuse of their human rights. Prisoners in mainstream jails would not be treated as badly as these detainees. There are real concerns that their confinement is adding substantially to their risk of mental illness.”

“The conditions in the Red Compound and now Alpha Compound are appalling. They are separated from other detainees and have only been allowed to exercise last week after seven weeks of being confined within the small compounds.”

“We are also calling on the Minister to state categorically that these charges will not have any impact on their claims for asylum. It would be a compete travesty for refugees to be denied visas because of convictions on these charges. Such a punishment would amount to a life sentence and be out of all proportion to the offences they are charged with,” said Ian Rintoul

For more information contact Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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