Sydney - Buildings were razed as hundreds of asylum-seekers escaped detention during riots at an Australian refugee facility on Nauru, witnesses said Saturday, following the launch of a hardline immigration crackdown.
Australia announced on Friday that boat people will no longer be resettled in the country and all future unauthorised arrivals will be sent to poverty-stricken Papua New Guinea for permanent resettlement.
The riots on Friday night saw detainees take control of the immigration processing centre on the remote Pacific atoll of Nauru and arm themselves with makeshift weapons.
Nearly half of the facility's 545 asylum-seekers escaped and a number of buildings were set alight, according to one report.
The asylum-seekers abandoned their four-hour protest after a huge group of locals descended on the centre armed with pipes and machetes to help authorities contain the violence in response to a government call for assistance, an eyewitness said.
Special laws were passed overnight to allow detainees to be held for seven days for questioning without charge.
As of midnight on Friday Australia's immigration department said all the asylum-seekers had been accounted for and order had been restored.
An immigration spokesperson said that most of the major buildings including the accommodation blocks, medical centre, dining hall and offices had been destroyed during the protest, which involved about 150 detainees.
Four detainees had been hospitalised with minor injuries and no staff were hurt, she added.