Thursday, April 21, 2011
Due to an earlier decision ~ the Australians decided that they would not readily take refugees claiming asylum from Afghanistan, Iraq and [possibly] Sri Lanka.
Security guards and firefighters were attacked with fire extinguishers and pelted with roof tiles and pieces of timber in one of the most serious eruptions of violence among asylum-seekers in Australia, where the government’s policy of mandatory detention last pushed several detention centres to crisis point.
Riot police had to be called in to the Villawood detention centre in western Sydney to quell the protest after the centre’s unarmed guards were forced to retreat in the face of the attacks from a group of 100 detainees, including Afghans, Kurds and Iraqis. The unrest started when two men climbed onto the roof of the centre to protest but quickly escalated as rioters set mattresses on fire and vandalised buildings.
By daybreak, the fires had been extinguished but the authorities were still struggling to contain the situation within the centre. Police spent several hours trying to coax seven asylum seekers who had erected a sign reading “we need help” from the roof of one building.
Chris Brown, the immigration minister, warned that the men who took part in the riot could face criminal charges that would further dent their chances of being granted asylum. He said many of those involved in the riot had either not been granted asylum or were currently appealing rejections to their applications.
Refugee rights groups have said the violence was an act of desperation by people who had been detained for almost two years.
Rami Jegan, from the Refugee Action Coalition, said it was an “absolute act of desperation”
“It’s a cry out for help,” she said.
In recent years, Australia has seen increasing numbers of asylum-seekers from countries such as Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, arriving by boat via Indonesia.
The government claims that mandatory detention is necessary for national security, but critics of the policy say indefinite detention is cruel and inhumane. Noting that detainees can spend years locked up before their status is determined.
The riots at the Villawood detention centre in western Sydney come weeks after 150 asylum seekers broke out of the troubled Christmas Island detention centre in protest at delays processing their asylum claims.
Posted by Cole at 12:27 PM