About 50 asylum seekers protest at Christmas Island detention center

13:18, July 20, 2011      

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by Vienna Ma

Australian Federal Police have used tear gas and bean bag rounds to quell a protest at the Christmas Island detention center, the Immigration Department confirmed on Wednesday.

Police officers were called to the center after the protesters, involving about 50 detainees, set fire to rubbish bins and other materials late Tuesday.

Immigration Department spokesman Sandi Logan confirmed a fire had been lit, which was extinguished soon after.

"We are aware that there were several small fires set in wheelie bins and those fires were extinguished immediately by Serco security staff who responded to them," he was quoted by the ABC News on Wednesday, adding that it is unclear how much damage was caused.

"At this stage it's too early to say if there's been any damage. That's being assessed as we speak."

One man has been arrested during the protest, and police said the asylum seekers have used improvised weapons as they broke out of compounds.

Meanwhile, Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said the protest is about the length of time taken to process asylum claims.

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