Dozens of asylum seekers injured in detention riot

AP News
Posted: Nov 22, 2009 6:55 PM

Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum seekers were separated at an island immigration detention center after a riot left 37 injured, an official said Monday.

Police were investigating the violence at the center Saturday night and criminal charges could be filed, Immigration Minister Chris Evans said. He blamed tensions among Sri Lankans after several failed to be accepted as refugees and were recently sent home.

The Christmas Island detention center's population is near capacity as a continuing stream of asylum seekers, mainly from Sri Lanka, head toward Australia by boat.

Ten of the most seriously injured in the incident were flown from Christmas Island, south of Indonesia, 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometers) to the Australian west coast city of Perth, an Immigration Department official said.

The riot involved 150 of 970 men held in the island's main detention center, he said. Women and children are detained in separate facilities, said the official, who spoke on the departmental policy condition of anonymity.

"People will get anxious if they see people are failing in their asylum claims and that's not going to change," Evans told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.