6 May 2016

Detainees blamed for riot could be dragged back to Aus

8:01 am on 6 May 2016

Deportees blamed for the Christmas Island riot and kicked out of Australia six months ago are bracing themselves to be dragged back to face charges.

A supplied image shows damage following unrest at the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre. The photo was supplied on 11 November 2015 by the office of Australian MP Peter Dutton.

A supplied image shows damage following unrest at the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre. Photo: Supplied

After three days of rioting by detainees on the Indian ocean island in November, Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton vowed to prosecute those responsible and labelled about a dozen New Zealand detainees the ringleaders.

But within weeks they were all deported to New Zealand.

In the past two days, three of those men have been visited by New Zealand police. One of the men - who RNZ News has agreed not to name - said he came home from work to find a New Zealand detective waiting for him.

"He told me that he got an email from the Australian Federal Police saying that they want to book a flight and come see me over the riots that have been on Christmas Island."

He expected the Australian police to search him out soon, though he denied playing any part in the riot.

"To me it looks like they want to, well they think we're involved in the riots there, and they're trying to get us and send us back to Australia to possibly do some [jail] time."

After the riot, Mr Dutton said the ringleaders were some of the country's worst criminals and would pay for a damage bill he put at $11 million.

Deportees' advocate Filipa Payne said one of the deportees told her the detective who visited him on Wednesday said the Australians were after six of those deported here.

At the same time, rioting charges could be laid as soon as today against New Zealanders in detention or prison in Australia.

Fourteen were sent last November to a Perth prison and were blamed, although no one was ever charged.

The partner of one man still detained there said guards had told her he and others would be charged over the riot, as soon as today.

A supplied image shows damage following unrest at the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre. The photo was supplied on 11 November 2015 by the office of Australian MP Peter Dutton.

A supplied image shows damage following unrest at the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre. Photo: Supplied

Back in Auckland, deportee Czarion Strang was not at his home when the police arrived on Wednesday.

"We probably think that New Zealand police will probably arrest us, and then probably try to hand us over to the Australian police," said Mr Strang.

It was not clear why New Zealand police would forewarn the deportees.

New Zealand police have refused to comment, saying they never comment on investigations run by overseas police. The Australian Federal Police have not answered RNZ News' questions.

Both deportees RNZ News spoke to said they would not cooperate if the Australian police wanted to question them.

Tauranga lawyer Craig Tuck - who represented some other detainees - said they should not say anything without a lawyer present.

But he warned that a substantive court hearing in this country was not required under the fast-track extradition laws, and the detainees' return to Australia looked like a mere formality.

"It seems inevitable," said Mr Tuck. "I imagine the police will have already got the warrants and, you know, there's been an ongoing investigation.

"They are here to do the business and to take the men back to Australia to face trial."

Mr Strang said he did not cause the riot, and was never interviewed at the Perth prison about the riot, before being deported.

The other deportee said border patrol officers wanted to question him but he said nothing.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton Photo: AFP

Labour MP Kelvin Davis, who visited Christmas Island before the riot, lambasted the Australian Government.

"The Aussies have sent them over to New Zealand and now they are saying they want them back," said the MP. "They are basically playing yo-yo with these guys' lives.

"The deportees I have had contact with just want to get on with their lives, put their heads down, get a job."

The two deportees RNZ News spoke to said they both had jobs.

One of them has only just started working, and after the police visit was now worried, afraid and depressed, saying it was heartbreaking that the past was coming back this way.

He hoped Prime Minister John Key would intervene.

"I hope the New Zealand Government, he jumps in for us and he looks at it that we're changing our lives, we're working men, and I hope he can help us."

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