Villawood Detainees Escape

Villawood detainees escape

The Age (Melbourne)
April 21, 2007

Two immigration detainees remain on the run in Sydney tonight after scaling a wall and escaping from Villawood Detention Centre.

The immigration department said it was believed the two men climbed a fence to escape custody at the centre in Sydney's west about 9pm (AEST) yesterday.

The fugitives, one from Fiji and the other from Tonga, had overstayed their visas and were not criminal detainees, the department said.

Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition, said the Fijian was an asylum seeker who had been in detention for more than 18 months.

However, an immigration spokeswoman refused to confirm details.

Police and immigration department officers have launched a search for the men.

Mr Rintoul also claimed that detainees at Villawood had their access to the internet cut off after the escape.

He said detainees, on hunger strike for 24 days in protest at forced deportations, were unnecessarily made to walk to the visitors area for a head count.

“There is no excuse for the mistreatment of the hunger strikers, the muster was purely an administrative convenience,” he said in a statement tonight.

“They had no regard whatsoever for the welfare of the hunger strikers.

“A head count could have been made without forcing the hunger strikers to the muster area.”

But the immigration spokeswoman said a head count was standard practice.

“It's standard procedure to have a head count in the mustering area in the event of this sort of incident and that's what has occurred,” she said.

“I can't confirm anything about their (detainees') internet access.”


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