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Australia: Immigrant riot quelled

March 18, 2011 at 8:31 PM

CANBERRA, Australia, March 18 (UPI) -- Australian Federal Police have retaken control of the Christmas Island immigration detention center after days of rioting, the government said Friday.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said detainees convicted of attacks on police face long prison terms and denial of asylum applications, The Australian reported. He said leaders of the violence could be denied Australian visas even if they are not charged, since he has the power to turn down asylum applications based on conduct.

The center for asylum-seekers on Christmas Island, a speck of land closer to Indonesia than to Australia, has become overcrowded. The government recently announced plans to build a new center near Darwin.

Violence at the detention center escalated during the week. About 250 detainees burned down the camp's tents and many of its buildings Thursday and threw Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

About 280 people not participating in the riot were taken by bus to the recreation center because officials believed they were being threatened by other inmates. They are to be transferred to mainland Australia, officials said.

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Topics: Chris Bowen
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