The move took place on the Indian Ocean island on Tuesday upon a request from the country’s Immigration Department.
The island houses a detention facility, which accommodates asylum seekers awaiting processing and foreigners due to be deported as a result of criminal conviction.
The refugee, whose death sparked the unrest at the site, was identified as Fazel Chegeni, reportedly an Iranian Kurd. His body was found at the bottom of cliffs on the island on Monday. He had escaped the detention center over the weekend and the cause of his death remains unknown.
Death in a couple of hours?
The unrest has seen parts of the detention center being set on fire and as many as 20 to 30 detainees arming themselves with machetes and iron bars to confront the police.
“There’s an operation underway. The government’s not going to cower in the face of some of these criminals,” said Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton in reference to the refugees.
This is while New Zealand’s opposition lawmaker Kelvin Davis, who visited the center last month, has voiced concern regarding police’s potential heavy-handed response there.
“To be honest, I don’t know if some of them are still going to be alive in a couple of hours,” he said, referring to the detainees. “The Australians aren’t interested in negotiating a peaceful resolution… they’ve gone to the expense of flying over reinforcements who’ve got to earn their money.”
Detainees have in the past complained about their treatment at the facility.
Besides Christmas Island, Australia also sends asylum seekers to camps on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and the remote Pacific state of Nauru, where they are kept in inhumane conditions.
In August 2014, a young Iranian migrant died from lack of medical care at a Manus Island detention center.
Reza Barati, another Iranian, was also killed as a result of “brutal beating” by an Australian guard on the same island in February 2014. He sustained fatal head injuries after hundreds of migrants tried to break out of a camp on the Island.