A brawl between refugees and their guards broke out at the detention centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island on Saturday, when a dispute over food turned violent.
The Kurdish journalist and detainee Behrouz Boochani said the fight lasted several minutes with combatants beating each other with plastic chairs until the guards retreated, leaving the centre for the night.
Mr Boochani said the brawl in Mike Compound was sparked by a new barrier erected to manage the line of detainees queuing for their meals.
He said the guards put up the barrier because they believed some detainees take more food then they should.
Mr Boochani said the refugees objected to the barrier as it caused them to queue for up to an hour to receive their meals.
He said none of the refugees were seriously injured, but tension in the centre remains high.
The Refugee Action Coalition said the fight erupted when the guards were asked how one of the very short detainees could be expected to reach over the barrier to collect a tray.
The response from security, "you can lift him up," was apparently the final straw, with the detainees tearing down the wall in front of the serving window as the fight erupted.
"It was a provocation," one detainee told the Coalition. "They treat us like we are in Guantanomo Bay."
On Christmas Eve, refugees expelled guards from at least two compounds in the detention centre in reaction to the death of Sudanese refugee, Ishak Amed.