Refugee advocates claim at least eight teenage asylum seekers on Nauru were injured by guards following the 18th day of protest against their detention on the island.
Asylum seekers on Nauru have been protesting since March 20, to mark 1000 days in detention for some of them. Protests have escalated in recent days, including a group of teenage boys scaling the roof of a tent and refusing to come down until they were allowed to send a letter to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
A response to that letter arrived on Wednesday night, leading to increased protests on the island. Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition said the protest led to asylum seekers throwing chairs, prompting a confrontation with security staff in the centre. Video purportedly captured inside the centre shows people screaming as loud voices seemingly call for order, while other voices call "they are hitting us".
"The teenagers were summoned to receive the letter from Canberra, but the dismissive quality of the became obvious and the exchange quickly turned into a protest," Rintoul told The Huffington Post Australia.
"There were some chairs thrown, not at anyone, just angry scenes. But in response, guards did strike out and there were a large number of people hit, including the teenagers. Eight teenagers did go to the [hospital area] for superficial injuries, bruises."
Rintoul also said the mother of one of the teenagers was still in hospital after having a "heart incident" during the fracas, and another young person who had swallowed washing powder in protest.
An image of a letter on a Department of Immigration and Border Protection letterhead, which refugee advocates claim is the letter received in response to the asylum seekers' letter, has circulated online. Rintoul has seen the letter, in which he said the department claims people on Nauru receive similar treatment and education to Australian citizens in Australia.
The department told HuffPost Australia in a statement that the centre "is now calm".
"The Department is aware of an incident in Nauru involving a disturbance at the Regional Processing Centre. The garrison services provider and centre personnel de-escalated the protest action. Two transferees are receiving medical treatment following the disturbance. Nauru police are in attendance," a department spokesperson said.