Police and security guards have restored order at the detention centre on Nauru in Australia after a full-scale riot broke out last night when detainees, mostly Sri Lankans attacked the police and tried to escape, Australian media reports said.
Nine News reported today that up to 60 detainees were held overnight at the island’s police station following the outbreak of violence on Friday afternoon.
There were reports up to 500 people may have escaped the facility but a spokeswoman from the Australian Immigration Department said the situation was under control this morning.
ABC news reported that refugees began rioting late Friday afternoon and within two hours had taken over the centre.
They gained access to a kitchen and armed themselves with knives and steel bars. Several new buildings were set on fire and the medical centre has been destroyed.
At least 15 guards have been injured, including a local police officer who was stabbed.
The Sydney Morning Herald said that it was understood most of those rioting were Sri Lankans.
The Refugee Action Coalition’s Ian Rintoul says the protest was over the slow processing of claims and had been in the planning for the past few days.
He said before the protest yesterday there were two serious self-harm incidents by Tamil asylum seekers on Nauru.
The riot came hours after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced his hardline crackdown on boat people, although authorities are denying a link.
Rudd announced on Friday that no asylum seeker who comes by boat will ever be resettled in Australia. Instead they will be sent to Papua New Guinea for processing and, if found to be refugees, will be resettled there.