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March 14, 2011

CRACK DOWN BEGINS ON CHRISTMAS ISLAND – REFUGEE SUPPORTERS SAY “OPEN THE GATES”

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media release March 14, 2011

There are disturbing reports from Christmas Island asylum seekers that a number, perhaps 20, of the people who escaped from the detention centre on Friday night have been handcuffed and taken to the high security management unit, Red Compound, last night (ie Sunday night).

Some reports indicate that up to 20 people may have been taken to the Red Compound. At least two Afghans, one a teacher, inside the detention centre, were handcuffed and taken away last night.

While it still seems that up to 50 asylum seekers are still outside the compound, after heavy rain last night many returned to the detention centre to spend the night.

One of those involved in the original break out on Friday said, “The rain was very heavy and we had nowhere for shelter. We thought maybe we have achieved all we could. We didn’t want a confrontation with the police.”

He also reports that two Iranians who had been outside “are missing”. It is unclear whether they are still on the outside or among those now imprisoned in Red Compound.

“We are extremely concerned to hear that the government is using the Red Compound to ‘restore order.’ The government had promised that it would not use force against the protesters. But it seems promises to asylum seekers are worth nothing.

“Their only crime was to hold a peaceful protest at the appalling conditions on Christmas Island. More repression mistreatment of asylum seekers at the detention centre will only increase the high level of tension inside the detention centre,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“As a first step, the government should release those in Red Compound and open the gates of Christmas Island. It is clear that their high security ‘factory for mental illness serves no good purpose and is not needed on the island.

“We are calling on Serco, the police and the government to exercise restraint. There is a good case for human rights observers to be flown to the island to ensure there are no more incidents of force against protesters.

“The ball is in the government’s court. There needs to be urgent action to end the terrible delays in processing refugee claims and to close Christmas Island.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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