Christmas Island detainees living in fear as Kiwis 'bash' weaker inmates
A mob of aggressive New Zealanders has been terrorising other detainees inside Christmas Island detention centre for weeks, leaving asylum-seekers fearing for their lives.
Dozens of Kiwis are locked up in the Australian detention facility - many had their visas revoked on character grounds under section 501 of Australia's Migration Act, earning them the nickname "501s".
But while they may not have committed crimes, fellow detainees say inside Christmas Island detention centre, the Kiwis are anything but innocent.
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A distressed Lebanese detainee told The Australian he feared for his life at the hands of the 501s during a riot that broke out on Monday.
"They're f***ing going to kill me ... We are in danger. You need to tell someone who cares that our prison is in the hands of very serious criminals."
He said the New Zealanders had beaten more than 20 weaker detainees over the last month, stealing their phones and other property.
"These Kiwis are like a group. There's about 25 of them. Very, very strong and they are very, very aggressive. We have problems with them. They call us dogs. Dogs and b****es.
"I got bashed by 14 men ... My eyes are destroyed. I cannot see more than 20m. They f***ing destroyed my life."
KIWIS BLAMED FOR RIOT
Other detainees also blamed the New Zealanders for starting the riot, after escaped Iranian refugee Fazel Chegeni was found dead on the island, far northwest of Australia near Indonesia.
Tuk Whakatutu told Radio New Zealand there was an armed group mostly made up of New Zealanders and Pacific Islanders, who had broken into garden sheds to find weapons.
"They've got petrol bombs, they've got machetes, they've got chainsaws, metal bars, all sorts.
"It's just going crazy. I want nothing to do with it, but all the young fellas are gee'd up, they want to go to war with them."
Prison staff fled the compound as prisoners took over, with police brought in to take back control.
The riots ended on Tuesday after tear gas was fired into the compound, with most detainees cooperating with police negotiators.
Five detainees were injured or otherwise required medical attention, and were given treatment.
NO BARRIERS TO RETURNING HOME
The New Zealand government has since promised Kiwis who elected to return home would be able to do so in a "matter of days, or at most, a week", despite the riot.
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed that he was happy to pay for their airfares, and that they could carry on their appeals from New Zealand.
"I'm very keen to work with the New Zealand government to make sure that we can return people to New Zealand, even if their cases haven't yet been determined," he said.
"So if people are complaining about being in detention, and come from New Zealand, I'm more than happy to pay their airfare to go back to New Zealand, and they can be heard by videolink for example."
"[If] their cancellation is overturned, they can return to Australia on a no-prejudice basis."
Potential obstacles to a swift departure included detainees' lack of travel documents, the need to charter private flights for high-risk offenders, and assessing potential risks that detainees could present upon their arrival.
Justice Minister Amy Adams echoed Dutton's comments.
"He has previously confirmed that for those who return, if their appeal is subsequently upheld then there would also be no barrier on them returning to Australia."
Adams said she was working to make sure supervision regime was put in place as soon as possible, so the most violent and serious offenders deported back to New Zealand could be monitored.
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