Australian Federal Immigration Minister Chris Evans says a peaceful protest by Sri Lankan detainees on Christmas Island will do little to help their cause. Senator Evans says he has been told that 133 detainees are protesting against the time it is taking to process their claims, but activist groups put the number at more than 350.
They have gathered on an oval and in the recreational area and are refusing to go back to their compounds. But Senator Evans says the peaceful protest will not speed up the process.
"I want to make it very clear to them and to the community ... we're not going to be responding to this," he said.
"What we are going to do is ensure proper process is followed - that is people have to have had their health, identity and security checks and then they have to have been successful in their application for protection."
But a spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul, says the protest may continue until changes are made.
"I think the protest will keep happening. They're determined to keep some level of protest now until they get proper answers from the department," he said.
"There's been some talk of initiating a protest hunger strike to indicate just how serious they are that something has to happen on Christmas Island."
Mr Rintoul says the protesters are holding signs which say 'how long do we have to wait, Oceanic Viking six weeks, Christmas Island six months'.
"There's a longer and longer wait. There's probably about 150, 160 Tamils now that are six months or longer, some much longer," Mr Rintoul said.
Senator Evans says most claims are processed within 100 days, but admitted some of the Sri Lankans were being forced to wait longer.
"The Tamils in particular from Sri Lanka are taking a bit longer to get their security clearances, because obviously there are concerns following the civil war in Sri Lanka and the movement of a lot of LTTE operatives out of Sri Lanka," he said.
"So those processes are under way. We have had many of them cleared, but it is taking a bit longer." (ABC News)