More tear gas and fires on Christmas Island

Sydney Refugee Action Coalition Media Release 18 March, 2011 Police have used a stronger version of tear gas that has badly affected protesters inside the Christmas Island detention centre tonight (Thursday night), around 10.00pm Christmas Island time. Over 250 asylum seekers were involved in the protest. The protests started in response to a letter asylum seekers received from Canberra Thursday afternoon. While the whole content of the letter is not known, the letter says in part that security checks for those waiting would be completed by the end of April.

But some other aspect of the letter has angered the detainees. Since the use of the tear gas, Lilac and Aqua compounds are burning. Workers in the detention centre have been withdrawn.

“We are again calling for the Immigration Department and the police to act with restraint on Christmas Island. It is obvious that the use of force by the police is leading to escalating tension and confrontation. Independent human rights observers are clearly needed to ensure that peaceful protests are not being suppressed by heavy handed use of tear gas and bean bag rounds,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The guarantee to finalise outstanding security clearances by the end of April could be a good start if the government is now willing to set a definite time limit to finalise all security clearances.”