Authorities have regained control over the Christmas Island detention center after nearly two days of riots. The government's policy of placing criminals alongside asylum-seekers has come under fire.
Police reinforcements quelled two days of riots at the Indian Ocean outpost on Tuesday, leaving at least five wounded and damage to the facility as a group of detainees armed with fire bombs and machetes resisted behind makeshift barricades.
Australia's Immigration Department said authorities regained control largely through negotiation, but a hardened group of criminals resisted.
"Some force was used with a core group of detainees who had built barricades and actively resisted attempts to secure compounds, including threatened use of weapons and improvised weapons," it said in a statement.
The detention center houses 203 asylum-seekers and non-Australian criminals, who have been moved to the island to be processed for deportation.
The riots started late Sunday after an Iranian Kurdish asylum-seeker was found dead at the bottom of a cliff near the center. Authorities said some Iranians reportedly organized a peaceful protest of their conditions, which was then hijacked by group hardened criminals. Police were forced to flee after fires were started.
Australia's policy of putting asylum-seekers fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Asia alongside non-Australian criminals has come under criticism from both inside and outside the country. The government sends asylum seekers intercepted at sea to Christmas Island, Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and Nauru in the South Pacific.
Australia implemented a mandatory policy last year to cancel visas and deport anybody who has been sentenced to prison for more than a year. The policy led to many New Zealanders with criminal records being sent to immigration detention centers.
cw/jil (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)