Three people have been treated in hospital after a riot involving more than 100 people at the Scherger Immigration Detention Centre at Weipa on the Cape York Peninsula.
The violence broke out yesterday afternoon, causing property damage at the facility.
The Immigration Department says two detainees and an officer were injured and taken to hospital, but the Serco Australia officer has since been released.
Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Collective says he has been told a guard broke the nose and teeth of a Tamil man from Sri Lanka.
“Asylum seekers are not criminals and Serco guards are not prison officers and in any case there’s no place for that kind of behaviour,” he said.
“We want that Serco guard out of the compound while a thorough investigation takes place.”
A Department of Immigration spokesman says the cause is being investigated.
More details from Pamela Curr, Campaign Coordinator of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre:
Early this afternoon, a Sri Lankan man went to the computer room to get his 30 minutes online. A Serco guard punched him in the face. According to witnesses, ” The client just asked for his time, the guard punched him in the face, the client was bleeding and fell down, like unconscious”. Other detainees came to his help and surrounded the client so that he could not be dragged away. They are asking for the police to come urgently to investigate.
Some detainees became angry and distressed and broke a few windows. The guard was withdrawn.
There are problems getting staff in Scherger. The bulk of workers are flyin/flyout, working 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, one week nights and one week days until their contract is up and then they go home for one weeks leave. They are paid $2,100 per week. The shifts are long but as most are untrained, unskilled people, this is the best money they have ever earned in their lives.
Local people would rather work for COMALCO mining bauxite where conditions are much better. However SERCO has a deal with Centrelink to pick up the unemployed people in WEIPA.
Locals told me in July that WEIPA is a town with no to little unemployment becasue of the mine and need for services. Even the wives are working driving the trucks. Locals said that only the “unemployable in town work for SERCO and that many of those are people with drug and alcohol problems”. Locals also said that the SERCO guards start before the police checks are done because many have been to prison and so subsequently fail these checks after working for 6 to 12 weeks. Locals do not get the high wages as they are not flyin/ flyout so the incentive to work the impossible hours is low.
Right now the call is urgent for police intervention. Scherger is 40 minutes plus on a rough dirt road from Weipa and the nearest police station.