Derby unrest

Unrest in the troubled immigration detention network spread to Curtin detention camp near Derby earlier this week, with asylum seekers on hunger strikes and refugee activists arrested.

The drama erupted as a result of asylum seekers being unhappy the Immigration Department and contractor Serco, which runs the camp, denied them a mass meeting with refugee advocates. Instead, they were limited to brief one-on-one visits.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul, among 60 activists who were camping near the centre, claimed some 300 asylum seekers were involved in forms of protest action, including a hunger strike.

He warned tension could boil over similar to the recent violence at the Christmas Island and Villawood detention centres.

Mr Rintoul said 700 detainees had signed a petition demanding a delegation of asylum seekers meet a group of the supporters inside the camp because the one-on-one visits were too restrictive.

Another activist, Gerry Georgatos, said the department had initially lied to the asylum seekers that no one was coming to visit them at the weekend, which upset the detainees.

The number of asylum seekers involved in protest action from within the camp was disputed by supporters and the department.

A department spokeswoman said the mood within the centre was calm. She said about 80 Afghan men staged a sit-in in the outdoor recreation area yesterday afternoon after beginning with 150 people on Saturday.

Just 12 of them had told officials they were on a hunger strike.

There are 1371 detainees at Curtin.

The spokeswoman said the department had been “facilitating individual visits, in line with the visits policy”.

Police beefed up their presence at the detention camp in case of trouble over the weekend and arrested 16 activists on Sunday for blockading the road to the centre.

Inspector Sharron Leonhardt of police operations said 16 protestors aligned to the Refugee Rights Action Network had illegally erected a shade structure on the main access road to RAAF Base Curtin near Derby, and refused to follow instructions from police to move.