Death of refugee spark mass riots on Christmas Island

THERE are reports mass riots have forced guards to abandon the Christmas Island detention centre.

Riots began after prisoners learned of the death of a refugee who escaped the centre two days ago, TVNZ reported.

The body of an asylum seeker, believed to be Iranian Kurdish Fazel Chegeni, was found on Sunday following his escape from the detention centre on Friday, AAP reported.

Labour MP Kelvin Davis, who recently visited the island, said the prison "basically just went mad" after one detainee was allegedly assaulted by a guard for asking about the deceased asylum seeker who tried to escape.

He said the riots kicked off in the last two hours.

There were now about 60 detainees out on the sports field, with another 60 wandering around the centre, and no guards to be seen, he said.

The detainees were scared, he said.

"The guards have disappeared at this stage, they can't see anything of them. There's concerns when they come back they'll come back with force possibly even with guns.

They've asked me to try and get people over there so that when all the dust has settled down they'll be witnesses to the injuries they believe they're going to incur. They're scared."

Mr Davis arrived back from Christmas Island about 10 days ago.

New Zealander Ricky Downs, who is being held at the centre, told TVNZ this morning that guards had abandoned the centre.

"There's fires everywhere, holes in the wall and the canteen has been smashed to pieces," he said.

"There's not security, there's no response team, there's not border control, no guards. They've freaked out and left."

Mr Davis, told TV3's Paul Henry programme he thought it was a "spur of the moment" riot.
The detainees had "horrific stories", were traumatised and were rioting as an act of desperation, he said.

"I don't think they do have a plan. This is something that happened on the spur of the moment...I don't think they think they'll be able to escape and swim to Australia or anything.

"Really they're just scared and bracing themselves for what's next. When you're desperate what have you go to lose?"

One of the detainees said they were scared they would be shot when the guards returned, Mr Davis said.

He said the Kiwi detainees and asylum seekers were all basically "in it together".

The lights had been switched off and gas cannisters had been fired at them but the detainees were now waiting for the next step, he said.

"I think they will fight but it's David against Goliath, these guys don't have anything to fight with really other than their bare hands.

"It's going to be interesting over the next few hours."


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