THE Nauruan government are reporting that group of Iranian asylum seekers have taken detention centre staff hostage in what is believed to be a protest against the reforms to immigration policy announced by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd earlier today.
A Nauruan MP made a plea on state television for “big, strong men” to head to the detention centre in an effort to overwhelm the rioting asylum seekers. Around 300 Nauruan men responded to the call and have just stormed the detention centre.
It is feared that up to 300 asylum seekers may have escaped the detention centre after eight loud bangs were heard in the facility and outdoor floodlights were smashed, sending the area into darkness. Freelance photographer Clint Deidenang tweeted that chants of “freedom” could be heard from inside the detention centre, and that a “massive fire broke out from with (sic) the camp.”
A spokesperson from the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Sandi Logan, tweeted that the disturbance was part of an ongoing situation within the facility, and denied that it was linked to the changes announced regarding Australia’s processing of asylum seekers earlier today.
Ms Logan tweeted: “Transferees at #Nauru RPC were agitating on/off this week about their situation. Today’s non-compliance part of that.”
Mr Rudd today announced that the Australian government had struck a deal with Papua New Guinea that would reform the country’s approach to asylum seekers. He said that he was taking a “hard-line” approach to the issue and claimed that no individual that illegally attempted to enter the country would be allowed to settle in Australia.
The deal with Papua New Guinea would see the processing of asylum seekers taking place on Manus Island, with any individuals determined to have legitimate refugee status being given the option to resettle in Papua New Guinea rather than Australia. In return, Australia has promised Papua New Guinea considerable funding towards university reforms and the redevelopment of a hospital.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was reluctant in welcoming Mr Rudd’s reforms to Australian immigration policy, while Greens leader Christine Milne was unequivocal in labeling the processing centre on Manus Island as “Australia’s gulag in PNG.”