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AUSTRALIAN police smashed a protest yesterday at a refugee prison on Christmas Island.
Cops sent to the Indian Ocean territory, just 230 miles from Indonesia but 1,000 miles from Australia, reported using “some force,” including tear gas, against people who had built barricades in the camp.
The protests began on Monday after a man escaped from the jail and was found dead at the bottom of a cliff. His death is under investigation.
Guards fled the prison after refugees began demonstrating and lighting small fires in protest at their detention.
Speaking afterwards, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Australia would not “cower in the face of the activities of some of these criminals.”
Under its “Pacific Solution” started in 2001, the Australian government locks up refugees both on the mainland and far from its shores, including on Christmas Island, Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and on the island nation of Nauru.
The number of refugees held in immigration jails hit a peak of about 13,000 in 2013.
Australia’s treatment of refugees dominated its periodic review at the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.
It was battered by criticism, with more than 100 countries speaking — more than half of the UN’s member states and so many that they were limited to 65 seconds each.
More than half of the countries recommended changes to Australia’s asylum laws, including urging Canberra to end its policy of turning back boats carrying refugees and stop or strictly limit the jailing of refugees.
Many countries also brought up Australia’s handling of deportations — sending people back to places where they might be persecuted or tortured, in violation of international law.
Australian expert Fiona McGaughey said that countries are often wary of speaking up about refugee rights because of their own poor records, but Monday’s condemnation revealed Australia’s extreme position.
Many recommendations were made about the rights of Aborigines, who have for decades faced systematic persecution.
There are still major concerns about indigenous people’s access to health, education, housing and employment — and the proportion of indigenous people behind bars.
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