New Zealand detainees' attempts to get released from an Australian detention centre have been set back by a heavy-handed crackdown, advocates say.
Kiwis at the Christmas Island facility are now unable to reach lawyers or family because cellphones have been confiscated and other communications shut off.
Lawyers said this made it impossible for the detainees to appeal their Australian visa cancellations or apply to return to New Zealand.
There were also concerns about detainees' treatment after a three-day riot was shut down at the facility. Some of them were now said to be sleeping in the dirt and without access to basic facilities such as toilets.
Melbourne-based lawyer Greg Barns said he had been unable to contact one of his clients at the facility for two days. "The major concern ... is that a heavy-handed security presence is generally coupled with restrictions on access to communications - people trying to contact their families, their lawyers."
Mr Barns said detainees' access to telephones was crucial because the isolated offshore facility had no media access and little independent scrutiny.
Detainees did not face restrictions on cellphones before because they were not serving prison sentences. They were awaiting word on their visa cancellations under a hardline policy on ex-criminals.
Mr Barns said detention at Christmas Island was "worse than prison" because detainees - which also included asylum seekers - had no deadline for release.
Labour MP Kelvin Davis, who travelled to the island two weeks ago, said even detainees who had not been involved in the riots were facing harsh measures.
They had told the Labour MP they had been beaten, handcuffed and dragged "like crocodiles" by emergency staff after the riots. Some were no longer sleeping in their cells but on black mats in the dirt, and did not have access to a bathroom.
Seven alleged riot ringleaders have been moved to a maximum security prison in Perth.
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the men were "among a group of extreme-risk individuals who are alleged to have been involved in the disturbance". Five of the men were Kiwis. The group could face further criminal prosecution, seriously jeopardising their chances of appealing their deportation.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Amy Adams said yesterday that legislation would be introduced next week to allow the Government to impose parole-like conditions on any of the people deported from Australia.