Thursday 21 April 2011
No one was injured in the incident, immigration authorities said, but it marks one of the most serious eruptions of unrest among asylum-seekers in Australia, where the government’s policy of indefinite detention is a hot political issue.
Dozens of asylum-seekers at the Villawood immigration detention center, which houses many of those whose requests for refuge have been rejected and are pending deportation, climbed onto roofs late on Wednesday night and began setting fire to buildings.
“Miraculously there have been no injuries,” immigration spokesman Sandi Logan told national TV.
“At one stage there, the detainees were hurling roof tiles at them (firefighters), preventing them from extinguishing the blaze.”
By daybreak on Thursday, the fires had been extinguished and the situation at the center was under control, he added.
In recent years, Australia has seen increasing numbers of asylum-seekers from countries such as Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, arriving by boat via neighboring countries like Indonesia.
The government says detention is necessary for national security, but critics of the current policy say indefinite detention is cruel and leads to mental illness, noting people can spend years locked up before their status is determined.