Families of Christmas Island detention centre inmates desperate for answers after riots

A relative of a detainee on Australia's Christmas Island says those there are being treated worse than animals.

It comes after another riot broke out at the detention centre overnight Sunday, with one human rights advocate saying it resembled "a warzone".

Frustrated men have been protesting at the remote detention centre over what they and their families say is treatment that amounts to "abuse".

Detainees allege the facility's standard of living is tantamount to torture, with a severe lack of medical care, inadequate access to treatment and almost total isolation from their families. 

One woman, who did not wish to be named due to ongoing court proceedings, says her relative isn't even awaiting deportation. She says his visa has yet to be revoked and his case is still before the courts.

"He has been here [Australia] all his life. His mum is a citizen, all younger siblings [are] Australian-born citizens.

"Not all men detained are from NZ, they are from all over but most consider themselves Australian."

Newshub understands that of the about 200 men being held at the detention centre, about half are New Zealanders. Australia's Border Force holds them there due to being '501s', meaning they've failed the country's bad character test.

However, the woman Newshub spoke to claims her relative, who she now hasn't heard from for several days, "is in there over $20".

Families of Christmas Island detention centre inmates desperate for answers after riots
Photo credit: Getty

"For about a week now the centre has been abandoned by all workers," she said.

"There is no medical attention. Men could die.

"They have been left in a prison in the middle of nowhere with nothing.

"All these men have been depicted as illegal immigrants who have committed serious and violent crimes. That is not the truth.

"They are treated worse than animals."

These claims are backed up by others on the island. Sosefo Tu'uta Katoa, another Kiwi detainee, told Newshub last week he has no criminal record but was expelled due to being friends with bikies.

"Ever since Christmas Island has reopened, there have been no classes or stimulation for these men. They've been locked down for 22 hours a day, and only get physical activity for two hours a day outside of their compound," said Iwi N Aus co-founder Filipa Payne, who campaigns for the rights of expat New Zealanders in Australian detention.

"They've been asking and pleading for cooking classes, music classes, stimulation - something, anything - for the people to know they are actually cared about. They haven't received anything," Payne told Newshub on Sunday.

She urged the New Zealand Government to intervene, claiming if China or Japan were responsible for the alleged mistreatment, officials wouldn't hesitate to act.

Newshub has contacted Australia's Border Force for comment on Monday. Last week, the border force said the men were on Christmas Island because they posed a risk.

Contrary to claims from detainees and family members, the border force said those on the island were unlawful migrants, with convictions for sexual, violent and drug-related offences.