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Death at “Christmas Island” detention center causes unrest

Christmas Island Immigration Reception and Processing Center, more commonly referred to as Christmas Island Immigration Detention Center, is an Australian immigration detention facility, located in the middle of the Indian Ocean on a piece of land called Christmas Island. Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers–which is what a person is called until their request for refuge has been accepted–call this centre home. Most have recently attempted to travel to Australia by boat, while hundreds more have had their visas cancelled or face deportation.

The Christmas Island Immigration Detention Center reported one of its detainees–Fazel Chegeni–missing on Saturday, November 7th, and one day later, the body of the Iranian asylum seeker was found at the bottom of the island’s cliffs. And though police released a statement saying that Chegeni’s death is not being treated as suspicious, numerous Christmas Island detainees believe that security guards were involved in his death, raising a lot of questions surrounding how refugees and asylum seekers are being treated.

A group of Iranian detainees took part in a peaceful protest, but the situation quickly escalated to a full-out riot.

“While peaceful protest is permissible, other detainees took advantage of the situation to engage in property damage and general unrest,” Australian Immigration and Border Protection Department said in a statement. “A number of small fires have been lit within the center.”

These fires lasted up until Monday. Authorities also confirmed that numerous detainees with pre-existing medical conditions have gone without medication for some time.

Although journalists are not often authorized to travel to the Christmas Island Detention Center, local media reported significant damage at the camp, caused by an estimated over 200 protest participants.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that officers from the private contractor that operates the detention center–Serco–would be dealing with those people who have caused disturbances. “If people have caused damage to Commonwealth property, then they will be investigated and prosecuted,” said Dutton.

Ian Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition Group, stated that Fazel Chegeni was “suffering the effects of long-term arbirary detention,” and that the detainee had told others that he could no longer stand being in detention. While speaking with the Sydney Morning Herald, Rintoul said, “I think we have seen an explosion of anger over a faceless death and the brutality they confront inside, day in, day out.” Mr. Chegeni was deemed a refugee two years ago.

About Alyssa Knoop

Alyssa Knoop

Alyssa is a Communications student from Edmonton, Alberta. Her biggest passions are reading, writing, music, and oxford commas.