17 January 2012

Australian immigration authorities scrutinized further after detention centre escapes

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There are no plans to make Australia's detention centres more secure, a spokesperson for the Australian immigration department has confirmed despite admitting that two detainees had escaped from Sydney's Villawood Immigration Detention Centre since Christmas.

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Australia's detention centres have been repeatedly criticised in the past few months.

The escapes come in the wake of reports of overcrowding at the detention centres, as thousands of asylum seekers await the result of their Australian visa applications.

The spokesperson confirmed that two men, thought to be Chinese, jumped the fence at Villawood on 3rd January but that one of the men had already been recaptured.

"One of the men was apprehended by Serco officers in a nearby industrial estate soon afterwards. However, the second man has not been located."

The Australian government has come under fire recently for its management of the detention centres, with Villawood being particularly scrutinised. A report by the New South Wales police informed a parliamentary inquiry in 2011 that there were no clear guidelines dictating who was in charge of the centre in the event of large-scale violence.

The Australian immigration department could not confirm how many asylum seekers had managed to escape from detention centres in 2011, or how many had managed to evade recapture.

The immigration department's latest figures however, released last year revealed that breakouts were a growing concern with 95 escapes in the 2010-11 financial year and a further 25 since July 2011.

A total of 61 escapees had not been found as of November 2011.

Scott Morrison, a spokesman for the Opposition immigration department claimed the escapes highlighted "the crisis in our detention networks has not broken for summer...There is no end in sight for the government's problems."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian High Commission.

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