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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Christmas Island Riots

The situation on Christmas Island is now out of control. A second boatload of asylum seekers was on its way to the mainland last night, by-passing riot-torn Christmas Island. Federal police have done a head count to try and work out how many detainees have disappeared into the jungle after they tore down fences. Officials think around 20 asylum seekers are still at large. Police have found robber crab carcasses at a campsite which means they have been surviving on the protected species which tastes like lobster.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is besieged by the media looking for answers but he doesn't have any. He said the latest boat of 57 people would still be processed as if they were offshore.

And this is where it gets complicted. Opposition Minister Scott Morrison said "The bypassing of Christmas Island raises potential questions over the legal status of the boat's passengers as offshore entry persons and their access to onshore processing pathways, including the Refugee Review Tribunal for appeals. These questions can only be really tested in court,'' he said. Chris Bowen said that as soon as order was restored on Christmas Island, they will continue to process people there but will strive to lower the numbers.

The local residents living on the beautiful island had warned that trouble would result from overcrowding. It started last Thursday when about 250 asylum-seekers set fire to buildings and threw homemade bombs at police. Two RAAF Hercules delivered more teargas, ammunition and about 80 police to the island over the weekend and more reinforcements were due to arrive today. This gives us an indication of just how intense the fighting has been.

The government is still looking for a regional solution in East Timor and will raise the issue at the Bali summit next week but our near neighbours have shown little interest in the proposal. The delegation to Bali will be led by Mr Bowen and Kevin Rudd.