Riots rock Australian refugee centre on Nauru

SYDNEY, July 20, 2013 (AFP) – Buildings were torched as hundreds of asylum-seekers escaped detention during riots at an Australian refugee facility on Nauru, witnesses said Saturday, following the unveiling of a hardline immigration policy. The programme was ramped up Friday with an announcement that Australia was effectively closed to asylum-seekers arriving by boat in a bid to deter arrivals, which have exceeded 13,000 this year.

All future smuggled boat passengers will be banished permanently to PNG, regardless of whether they are ultimately found to deserve a visa, under a hardline plan Prime Minister Kevin Rudd hopes will boost his fortunes in an election year.

Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition, said detainees had been planning to break out for weeks in a bid to march to Nauru’s airport in protest at the length of time they had been waiting for processing on the island.

“I really do hope that (PNG) prime minister (Peter) O’Neill is looking what’s happening on Nauru,” Rintoul said. Australia announced on Friday that boatpeople will no longer be resettled in the country and any unauthorised arrivals will be sent to poverty-stricken Papua New Guinea.

The riots on Friday night saw detainees take control of