CANBERRA -- The damage bill for riots on Christmas Island has reached $10 million with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton moving to try and deport the “hardened” immigration detainees he says are responsible.
Dutton has told Macquarie radio on Thursday “we just don’t want them in our country”, as he confirmed an operation is underway to move accused rioters off the island.
It has also revealed three officers employed by the centre contractors Serco have been suspended as the Minister complains of an “unacceptable failure” with centre management.
Seven New Zealand nationals were moved off the island yesterday and sent to a West Australian facility. The Minister said more will soon follow.
“We are just not going to tolerate his sort of behaviour,” he said.
“People have committed serious crimes in our community and they have had their visas cancelled and we are trying to deport people as quickly as we can.”
The unrest -- which was sparked by the weekend death of escaped Kurdish Iranian detainee Fazal Chegeni -- ended late on Wednesday with the use of tear gas and what the Immigration Minister has described as “reasonable necessary force” used against a “hardened group” of detainees.
Five detainees were slightly injured in the operation and the Immigration Department states calm has been restored, however the damage bill is mounting from the initial $1 million estimate.
“They have done some significant damage,” Dutton said.
“The figure is closer to $10 million,” Dutton said. “These people will have to pay for the damage that they've caused through the criminal courts.”
Some detainees broke into the medical centre and took drugs, according to the Minister.
“They also broke into an area where there was gardening equipment as well. So they had the run of the centre until guards were able go back in and the Australian Federal Police arrived.”
The Immigration Minister has also indicated he is not happy with the way Serco handled the unrest, saying there clearly was “a failure”.
“We have had lots to say to Serco in private. There is an investigation underway at the moment,” he said.
Dutton has declared Serco “have a contract to perform” and he wants assurances this week’s events never happen again.
“Clearly it is unacceptable," he said.
In a statement, Serco defended staffing at the centre, describing it as "appropriately staffed".
"All Serco staff are fully trained for their roles and understand their responsibilities and the requirements of each role," it read.
"In this case we are investigating the circumstances that led to the escape and have suspended three staff pending the investigation. Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre is appropriately staffed for the detainees at the facility."