Refugees face charges, deportation


Two Afghan and nine Tamil asylum seekers faced Christmas Island magistrates court on March 11. They pleaded not guilt to all charges related to a so-called riot in the Christmas Island detention centre last November.

One of those charged (who asked no to be named) told Green Left Weekly that police asked for the trial to be delayed for a further three months so they could get more evidence. The request was turned down.

The defence noted the men had complained to the ombudsman and the Human Rights Commission about their treatment. Their mental state had deteriorated under the stress of being separated from other detainees and placed in high security areas. They had only been let out once in seven weeks for exercise.

He said they will not attend the next hearing. Instead, their barrister and lawyers will go to court in Perth on April 8.

Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney, called for the charges to be dropped. He said "There is nothing to be gained by pursuing these charges. It has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with the government's domestic agenda of trying to show that they are tough on asylum seekers. There was no property damage.

Rintoul added that the fight "was a product of the overcrowding and the tensions caused by long-term detention. The people involved have been living together since the fight".

Meanwhile, Rintoul said three other asylum seekers who had failed ASIO's security assessment will write to immigration minister Chris Evans to explain why they should not be deported. The March 9 Age said the government was "poised to deport the first group of Tamils on Christmas Island to fail claims for protection".

Evans said January 12 he did not know if ASIO used information provided by the Sri Lankan government in its assessment.

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