Inmates run the asylum on Nauru
11.Feb.03, first published by theage.com.au: read the original article here.
Asylum seekers on Nauru have been running their own detention centre since a riot on Christmas Eve, immigration officials admitted yesterday.
"Effectively you could call it a self-managed centre," the head of the Immigration Department's offshore centre management division, Vince McMahon, told a Senate inquiry yesterday. "That's precisely what it is because they are organising the internal operations of the centre."
Officers from the International Organisation for Migration abandoned the centre after the riot, in which 60 to 70 asylum seekers attempted to leave and guards and detainees were reportedly involved in a rock-throwing incident.
Fifty-four detainees remain at the centre after about 100 others elected to move to Nauru's other detention centre.
But the department's deputy secretary, Ed Killesteyn, denied that the International Organisation for Migration had abandoned the centre, instead saying it was providing services - including food, water and medical services - at the perimeter fence.
"Until IOM are of the view that it is safe for their staff to return to inside the centre and operate as they did before, then the matter will continue in that way," he said.
The immigration officials confirmed the Government was still paying IOM to manage the centre.
"We basically have an undertaking to meet IOM costs," Mr McMahon said. "They're looking after 90 per cent of the people in the other facility and they are performing a valuable service."
Mr McMahon said 19 detainees had been charged in relation to the incident and were bailed back to the centre on condition that they co-operate with authorities. Nauruan police this week conducted a search for weapons at the centre, finding machetes, knives, bottles, spent fire extinguishers, hammers and other makeshift tools.
The hearing also heard that the department had authorised five group strip-searches - at Baxter, Woomera and Villawood - after fires in detention centres late last year.