Eleven men detained in the Christmas Island detention centre have been charged and appeared in court on January 20 over a fight that broke out among 150 asylum seekers on November 21. They were remanded until a later date.
The conflict was sparked between Hazara refugees from Afghanistan and Tamil and Sinhalese refugees from Sri Lanka, reportedly over the use of a communal pool table.
Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Collective told ABC Online on January 20 that attention should be focused on adverse conditions inside the centre, such as overcrowding and the anxiety caused by seeing others forcibly deported.
"It just seems to me to be entirely vindictive that the Federal Police and the government are pursuing the asylum seekers for a fight that was really created by conditions inside the detention centre", he said.
After the riot, the government said forced deportation was a possibility.
Three men now face assault charges and 10 were charged with rioting. Ten were also charged with possessing weapons — that is, broken pool cues and tree branches. AAP reported on January 20 that immigration minister Chris Evans said the men may be refused a visa if they are found guilty.
"If any of them are found to have committed a serious offence, it may affect the granting of a visa", he said.
"Violent behaviour is unacceptable and people found guilty of violent offences should expect to face the full force of the law."
The immigration department recently warned the government that overcrowding in the detention centre is becoming a serious issue, AAP reported on January 14. The centre is now holding 1766 people, with only 54 spare beds.