09 November, 2015
Subject: Christmas Island Detention Centre disturbance
E & EO Transcript
JOURNALIST: For more on all of this, the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, joins me now. Thank you for your time Minister.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks David.
JOURNALIST: Can we start with what's I guess kicked off this unrest or violence, with the death of Fazel Chegeni. Are you able to say anything more about how he died?
PETER DUTTON: I can't at the moment because obviously there's a police investigation in relation to the circumstances.
I'm advised that there are no suspicious circumstances in relation to the death and the circumstances surrounding that obviously now will be investigated by the police and the matter referred to the coroner for investigation. So I think that …
JOURNALIST: He did escape on the Saturday?
PETER DUTTON: That's the advice that I have.
JOURNALIST: And when was his body, or where …
PETER DUTTON: Yesterday, on the Sunday.
JOURNALIST: Okay, and where was it found?
PETER DUTTON: Not far from the centre. And there obviously had been search activities that had taken place on the Saturday and the Sunday, and the body was recovered on the Sunday.
JOURNALIST: Did he return to the centre at all?
PETER DUTTON: No, not on the advice that I've got.
JOURNALIST: And the reports that he was- the body was found at or near the cliffs at Christmas Island, is that correct?
PETER DUTTON: I just don't have any comment to make in relation to the exact circumstances, but it's tragic nonetheless.
And whether or not that has been the reason or an excuse for the activity of some within the centre that we've seen over the last 24 hours or so I suppose will remain to be seen, and there'll be an investigation in relation to that.
But obviously we are very keen to see the matter resolved as quickly as possible.
We don't want to see destruction of Commonwealth property, and we have some very serious criminals that are in the immigration detention centre on Christmas Island, people with serious backgrounds, having committed manslaughter, members of outlaw motorcycle gangs, those who have committed serious assaults, indecent assault on children.
So there are some significant criminals within the centre, and we want to make sure that control can be regained as quickly as possible, and order restored.
JOURNALIST: So can we just talk a bit about what has actually happened at the centre.
I mean presumably a number of the detainees, including Iranians, found out and wanted to know how their friend had died. And were they not given that information, is that what really sparked things?
PETER DUTTON: Well David as I say I think that's subject of further inquiry at the appropriate time.
The priority now is to make sure that we can restore order and limit damage to Commonwealth property.
It's a facility that has had a lot of money spent on it, and obviously the Government takes a consideration of the background of people and the risk that they pose, and generally speaking those people of the highest risk or a medium to high risk will be those accommodated within the immigration detention centre on Christmas Island, and they would be in many cases awaiting deportation back to other countries because their visas have been cancelled because of failure of the character test, because of a serious criminal activity otherwise.
So that's the sort of population we're dealing with ….
JOURNALIST: ….So we are talking about a population more hardened criminals …
PETER DUTTON: Absolutely.
JOURNALIST: Than we've seen previously at Christmas Island.
PETER DUTTON: That's right.
JOURNALIST: And so what damage has been done, what is the actual status of buildings?
PETER DUTTON: Well we don't know as yet, because no doubt CCTV would have been damaged and those investigations are ongoing at the moment. So …
JOURNALIST: …..There were fires though?
PETER DUTTON: There were reports of spot fires within the centre, but we don't know the extent of that damage. The sprinkler systems have been activated in some areas and whether or not that restricted damage we won't know until access can be gained and order restored.
JOURNALIST: Was anyone injured, either staff or detainees?
PETER DUTTON: I'm advised this afternoon that one person has requested to leave the centre to seek medical attention and that medical attention is being provided to that person now.
I also understand that there have been …
JOURNALIST: …..And who is that, is that a detainee?
PETER DUTTON: A detainee. I also understand that a number of detainees had removed themselves, if you like, from the activity of those that were causing the trouble.
They sought not to be involved or associated with that activity, and that's a good thing and obviously those negotiations will be ongoing.
JOURNALIST: When you say negotiations are ongoing, is there some sort of stand-off right now?
PETER DUTTON: Well that's the case. So order or control hasn't been regained within the centre, and that's what they're working toward at the moment. And …
JOURNALIST: ……And how many are involved in this stand off?
PETER DUTTON: I don't have an exact number, but like you would see in any prison environment, for example, the response of the police, the response of the authorities will always be to try and negotiate before force is used. And that would be the approach here as well.
JOURNALIST: And presumably the detainees involved in this stand-off, what, are carrying some form of weapon, something they've obtained?
PETER DUTTON: I don't have that advice, but clearly from time to time during searches of the facility improvised weapons are located, as I say, as you would expect in any detention facility.
So the guards will be cautious and I want to make sure that we have the appropriate response, and Australian Border Force are presiding over that with the Australian Federal Police.
And that response will be appropriate, but we want to make sure that we can hold those people to account if they've caused damage or whatever the case may be, and those discussions will be ongoing.
JOURNALIST: There have been reports of holes being punched in walls so that it is virtually impossible to contain people to one particular compound.
PETER DUTTON: Well no doubt there will be that sort of damage that's occurred.
But the point is that there are a number of compounds within the centre, and no doubt people will be able to be accommodated in other areas. But again, that's sort of a down the line discussion.
JOURNALIST: But no damage to the actual perimeter?
PETER DUTTON: Not to the perimeter fence, and that is intact and nobody has sought to escape on that basis, which is a sensible thing for them to do.
JOURNALIST: Do you know- I mean, the Iranian who died over the weekend did escape. How did he manage to escape? Is it easy to escape?
PETER DUTTON: It's not easy to escape and there's an investigation underway in relation to the circumstances surrounding his escape, because it is a hardened facility and it would be unusual for somebody to be able to escape from the centre.
So that's the investigation that's already been initiated.
JOURNALIST: Now, we see also reports of some of the detainees being terrified about what's going on there because of these hardened criminals that you point out who are now there and the violence that they fear, that the bashings that they fear they were going to face.
I mean, is it a good idea to have this sort of population mix in the one spot?
PETER DUTTON: Well as I say, when you say a population mix, if somebody has come on a boat and they're a low risk they're put into a low risk facility which wouldn't be Christmas Island.
If somebody has, as a boat arrival, committed a serious crime out on a bridging visa, or committed a serious crime whilst in detention and they were rated to be high risk, they would go into a high risk environment like Christmas Island.
And similarly with the visa cancellation. So if somebody has a criminal record and criminal history that shows that they were violent then they would go into a facility like Christmas Island, or if they posed, or they were deemed to pose a higher risk.
JOURNALIST: Right, so it's not a visa overstayer.
PETER DUTTON: No, no. It's- the accommodation, if you like, in any of these facilities is based on the risk assessment of the individual.
So it doesn't matter whether they're an overstayer, whether they've failed the character test, whether they've arrived by boat. If they are a person who poses a great risk, or are deemed to pose a great risk, then they go into a higher security environment and that's the population we're talking about on Christmas Island.
JOURNALIST: Alright. Well finally, when do you expect order to be restored?
PETER DUTTON: Well I hope within hours and that'll be an issue for the people on the ground, the officers on the ground who are in charge, to try and work through it sensibly and in a measured way.
That's the plan and those discussions will be ongoing. And the Government's resolve, though, remains absolute.
We don't cower to this sort of activity, we don't respond to it in a way which will benefit people.
People should hear the message very clearly that we have a job to do in terms of repatriating people back to their country of origin if their visas have been cancelled, and the Government won't step back from that position at all, and we will work with the authorities to restore order as quickly as possible.
JOURNALIST: And will you beef up security there?
PETER DUTTON: If it's appropriate for it to be beefed up it will be, but we'll wait for the review and the advice from the officers on the ground.
JOURNALIST: Alright. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, thanks for joining us this afternoon.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks David. Thank you.