Prisoners and refugees held at Australia’s Christmas Island detention centre have started mass riots after the death of a refugee, reports say.
Riots began on Monday morning (NZ and AEST time) 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 after a day-long search following his escape from the detention centre on Friday, AAP reported.
New Zealand Labour MP Kelvin Davis has spoken to a person detained at the centre and said the prison “basically just went mad” after a detainee was allegedly assaulted by a guard for asking about the dead asylum seeker.
The centre houses non-citizens, including dozens of New Zealanders, who have served more than a year in jail and who are liable for deportation under tougher visa laws Australia enacted last year.
According to some reports, on Monday morning there were about 60 detainees out on the sports field with another 60 wandering around the centre, and no guards to be seen.
New Zealander Ricky Downs, who is being held at the centre, told TVNZ this morning 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.”
The centre, on the island in the Indian Ocean, has been in operation since December 2008, but earlier this year the federal budget outlined the winding down of facilities on Christmas Island.