Lifestyle & Belief

Nauru: Riots break out at Australian asylum seeker detention facility

Police and security guards have restored order on the tiny Pacific nation of Nauru, essentially Australia's holding center for asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

Riots broke out on the island on the same day Australian Prime Minister Kevin announced that any asylum seeker who arrived by boat without a visa in Australian waters would not be allowed to stay.

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The Fairfax media mentioned reports that a police officer had been stabbed and was being held hostage, as well as multiple explosions and parts of the center being set on fire.

Citing a spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, The Age reported up to 200 detainees were involved in the rioting and many had breached the fence and escaped from the facility.

Australia's ABC reported that 14 other detention center guards had been injured.

It cited one unnamed guard as saying refugees began rioting late Friday afternoon and within two hours had taken over the center, setting a number of buildings on fire.

At one point they gained access to a kitchen and armed themselves with knives and steel bars.

The center's medical facility had been destroyed, he reportedly said.

At least 15 guards have been injured, including a local police officer who was stabbed.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International last year described living conditions at the refugee camp as "squalid."

In the report, titled, "Nauru Camp: A Human Rights Catastrophe With No End In Sight," refugee expert Dr. Graham Thom wrote:

“The situation on Nauru is unacceptable. The unlawful and arbitrary detention of these men in such destitute conditions is cruel, inhuman and degrading."

He added that uncertainty pervaded the place, with no information being provided to asylum seekers about their refugee status and likely future.

The rights group spent three days on the tiny island nation, speaking to many of the 387 asylum seekers held there.