They get an island holiday with all expenses paid by the Australian taxpayer

DETAINEES on Christmas Island have access to both fast-speed internet services and mobile phones, raising fears they have may have been encouraging the stand-off on the Oceanic Viking. The Department of Immigration confirmed the internet and phone access but declined to answer questions relating to detainees having made contact with either those on the Oceanic Viking, people smugglers or other family members encouraging them to make the illegal boat trip to Australia.

The department says the use of the 30 computers is “supervised”. However, according to eyewitness accounts given to The Sunday Telegraph, such supervision is minimal if it exists at all. Eyewitnesses say guards on the island told them the computers were filtered for the “usual sites like porn”, but that was all. One person who observed detainees using the two computer rooms on the island said: “It’s clear they were able to have contact with the outside world. Therefore it’s conceivable they might have been in contact with the Oceanic Viking.

“All they have to tell other refugees is that if you get to Christmas Island you’ll spend three months max and then 90 per cent are waved through. You’ll do less than three months in good surrounds.”

The department refuses to say whether it has any record of who detainees have been in contact with but “restricted internet access” has been available since early 2007. “Any monitoring of phone calls or internet use would be under-taken by law enforcement or security agencies in accordance with relevant legislation,” a spokeswoman said, but she did not say whether any such monitoring actually took place.

According to those who have recently been on the island, detainees are also provided with free yoga, fitness and art classes. All health costs are also paid by the Commonwealth – including free dental care. The spokeswoman would not comment on claims one group of detainees destroyed their footwear to get new shoes after one asylum-seeker, who had no shoes, received a new pair on arrival. Fresh food and vegetables are airlifted into the detention centre.

The department refused to confirm this included freshly baked bread costing $10 a loaf – despite there being a bakery on the island. But it did confirm a vegetarian option was made available on the daily menu. Snacks and cigarettes are also available under a “purchase allowance” points scheme.

The spokeswoman said the total cost for running the island in the less than three months between July 1 this year and September 9 was just over $11 million. A breakdown of the cost included: $6.68 million for overall services, $2 million for interpreters, $1.3 million for health costs, $330,000 for aircraft charter and $800,000 in wages. Those who have been to the island recently say locals have noted the department spares no expense airfreighting the detainees’ requirements, while food and supplies for locals come by boat.

The spokeswoman confirmed all health costs were met by the Commonwealth. One recent visitor observed that many ordinary Australians in the bush could not receive access to free dental care.

The spokeswoman said food supplies were ordered from the mainland. She added: “We have a duty of care to ensure the health and well-being of people in immigration detention, including ensuring access to appropriate physical and recreational activities, such as a grassed area for soccer.”

Meanwhile the stand-off on the Oceanic Viking, moored off Indonesia for more than four weeks, showed signs of thawing when 22 of the 78 Sri Lankans on board left the vessel after the Australian Government guaranteed them a special 12-week turnaround of their claim for refugee status.