Scrutiny On Detainee Centre Security

Scrutiny on detainee centre security

Yuko Narushima and Aaron Cook
The Age
September 25, 2010

TROUBLED detainees were able to climb a roof where a man took his life at Villawood by leaving through an open window and a hole in the ceiling.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen yesterday acknowledged infrastructure at the Sydney detention centre was inadequate after days of rolling protests were sparked by a Fijian man's suicide on Monday.

''The first group of people, as I understand it, went out a window and climbed up the roof. Those windows were then secured, locked tight,'' Mr Bowen said. ''The next group of people, as I understand it, cut a hole in the ceiling and climbed up that way.''

Questions remain about the conduct of security officials, with private contractor Serco due to hand government a report.

While the Fijian man, Josefa Rauluni, was on the roof, guards laid out mattresses on the ground below, but when he jumped he missed them.

A memorial service for Mr Rauluni, was held on the footpath outside Villawood detention centre yesterday after more than 30 mourners were refused permission to conduct the service inside.

Mr Rauluni, 36, committed suicide at the centre at 9.45am on Monday and organisers said they received approval for a memorial from detention centre management on Tuesday.

Pastor Kanito Roko, of Mount Zion Assembly of God in Lansvale, said that he was in discussion with Villawood authorities all week, only to receive a message on Thursday night that the service had been cancelled for security reasons. But a spokesman for the Immigration Department denied that permission had ever been granted.

''There were never any plans to hold any memorial inside the grounds of Villawood,'' he said.

The confusion caused Mr Raulini's brother Bonie Tevita to miss the memorial because he was denied entry to the centre and did not know the service was taking place at another gate.

Mr Tevita, of Richmond in Sydney, said that Mr Raulini was an outspoken critic of the Bainimarama regime in Fiji and feared he would be tortured by the Fijian military if he returned.

''You can't raise your voice in Fiji,'' said Mr Tevita.

Mr Rauluni will be buried in Griffith on October 2.

The five men and four women from China who stayed on the roof for 39 hours came down late on Wednesday night.

Mr Bowen said the protests had no bearing on any immigration cases.