Christmas Island Rioters Could Still Be Granted Refugee Status

Christmas Island rioters could still be granted refugee visas

Ben Packham
From: Herald Sun
January 22, 2010 12:00AM

A GROUP of asylum seekers charged over last year's riot on Christmas Island could still be granted refugee visas if they are found guilty of involvement in the disturbance.

Under the immigration character test, asylum seekers who serve under 12 months' jail may still be allowed to settle in Australia.

A day after 11 asylum seekers faced court over last year's violence, Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison called for the Government to rule out visas for the men.

“We expect Senator Evans to give an undertaking that those found to have committed a serious offence will not be granted a visa,” he said.

Three of the men were charged with assault, 10 with rioting and 10 with possessing a weapon.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said if they were found guilty “it may affect the granting of a visa”.

“Violent behaviour is unacceptable and people found guilty of violent offences should expect to face the full force of the law,” Senator Evans said.

The charges carry maximum penalties of up to five years' jail. But in the event the men are found guilty, a magistrate could still elect to show leniency, imposing short or non-custodial sentences.

The character test deems anyone sentenced to more than a year's prison to have a “substantial criminal record”.

Those charged range in ages from 21 to 36. They're believed to include Sri Lankan Tamils and ethnic Hazaras from Afghanistan.

Refugee advocates blamed the Department of Immigration for the November 21 disturbance, saying over-crowding at the Christmas Island Detention Centre made clashes inevitable.

There were under 1000 asylum seekers being processed on Christmas island when the riot occurred.

There are now more than 1700 detainees on the Island, including several hundred living in tents.


Related Coverage

'Christmas Island like a motel' Perth Now, 1 day ago
Visas hang on riot Herald Sun, 9 days ago
Eleven charged over Christmas Island riot Herald Sun, 9 days ago
'Special team' to assess asylum-seekers The Australian, 23 Nov 2009
Another asylum boat held Herald Sun, 23 Nov 2009