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Tear gas used to quell Australia migrant centre unrest

Australian Police used tear gas to put down a two-day riot at a migrant detention centre today.

PTI| Updated: Nov 10, 2015, 15:34 PM IST

Sydney: Australian police used tear gas to put down a two-day riot at a migrant detention centre today, where detainees, reportedly armed with machetes, chainsaws and petrol bombs, were running amok.

Reinforcements were sent to the remote Christmas Island facility after violence erupted and fires were set in a protest triggered late Sunday by the unexplained death of a man.

"The department can confirm all areas of the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Facility are under the full and effective control of service providers and department staff," the Immigration Department said in a statement.

Five detainees were being treated for non-life threatening injuries, while Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the damage bill would be well over Aus dollar 1 million (USD 700,000).
 Police used tear gas and bean-bag rounds - designed to deliver an immobilising but not lethal blow - to subdue rioters.

"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," the department said.

"A full survey of damage to the centre is yet to be completed, but some common areas appear to be severely damaged."

The disturbance at the Indian Ocean centre began after an escaped asylum-seeker, named in Australian media as Iranian-Kurdish man Fazel Chegeni, was found dead.

Reports said his body was discovered at the base of a cliff. The government has said there were no suspicious circumstances.

Detainees, some of whom are non-resident criminals awaiting deportation, have complained about their treatment at the facility.

One man, New Zealander Tuk Whakatutu, said earlier today the detainees had retreated into one of the detention centre's compounds after they were surrounded by police in riot gear.

Whakatutu said most were hoping for a peaceful resolution but a hard-core group of 20 to 30 young men, mainly New Zealanders and Pacific islanders, were "tooled up" and determined to fight.

"I want nothing to do with it but, all the young fellas are gee-d up and all they want to do is go to war with them," he told Radio New Zealand via telephone, with sirens blaring in the background.

"They've got petrol bombs, they've got machetes, they've got chainsaws, iron bars, they've got all sorts."

The unrest at Christmas Island came as the United Nations' top human rights body took Australia to task over hardline policies on asylum-seekers, whom it has pushed back by the boatload and incarcerated in offshore camps.