Sydney (UPI) Apr 22, 2011
Criminal charges could be filed against detainees who rioted and caused a fire that destroyed nine buildings at an Australian immigration center.
Australian federal police are investigating the protest that turned into a riot by up to 100 of the 400 detainees at the Villawood Detention Center in Sydney, causing millions of dollars of damages.
The riots highlighted the country's the problem of handling an ever-increasing number of asylum seekers, many of whom arrive in Australian waters on rickety small boats after having paid notorious people smugglers in Asia, notably Indonesia, for the dangerous sea voyage.
Many of the asylum seekers -- more than 5,000 in 2010 -- are Tamils from Sri Lanka, as well as Afghanis, Iraqis and Kurds.
Rioting at Villawood began at 9 p.m. Wednesday when a group of mainly Kurdish and Afghan detainees set fire to furniture outside accommodation buildings. The protesters soon swelled in numbers and gained access to several roofs where they held off police during the night as other buildings burned.
At one stage the detainees were throwing roof tiles at emergency services personnel who were trying to put out the fire, Department of Immigration spokesman Sandi Logan said on Channel 10 television news.
It was "miraculous" that no one was injured, including immigration staff, emergency services people and employees of Serco, the private facilities management provider running the center, he said.
"We're looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage, a medical center that's gone up in flames, a dining hall and a kitchen," Logan said.
A former Serco guard, speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed the private company doesn't train staff properly.
"From what I've seen of the new recruits, they were basically put on the floor no training whatsoever, they were being told that they were being trained as they worked, that's never happened before," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s "Lateline" news program. "They're meant to go through at least a minimum six-week course and then a year of on-the-job training."
Investigators headed to the center after having spent a week at a detention center on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, where they were looking into similar riots that took place last month.
"This action is not only completely unacceptable, but it is very clearly potentially criminal," Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told reporters.
Most of the roof-top protesters had had their refugee claims rejected.
Bowen said, "Australians have a right to be angry at those who have conducted this sort of damage," and he said he shares that anger.
"If they think they will be accepted as refugees because of this sort of protest action, they have chosen the wrong government and the wrong minister because that won't be happening," Bowen said.
But Bowen rejected opposition party calls for a broader inquiry into the detention system, saying he was extending the terms of reference for an independent inquiry examining the Christmas Island riots to include the Villawood riot.
Last month more than 200 rioters set fire to buildings in an attempt to escape from the crowded Christmas Island center. Police fired non-lethal bean-bag rounds and tear gas canisters to control the rioters who charged security guards with bricks and poles.
Two asylum seekers were taken to hospital, one with chest injuries and another suffering chest pains. Some escaped but were captured on the isolated island, an Australian territory 750 miles from the mainland.
Because it lies 180 miles from Indonesia, people smugglers target the island as a place to unload their human cargo.
Australia set up its main asylum-seeker detention center on the island but last year started shipping detainees to the mainland to other purpose-built centers including Villawood.
Successive Australian governments have talked with leaders in Asia about criminalizing people smuggling, where the smugglers take money in exchange for a one-way boat trip to Australian waters and promising entry into the country.
The Indonesian Parliament, long criticized by the Australian government for being soft on people smugglers, last month passed a bill making people smuggling illegal.
Convicted people smugglers could be jailed for up to 15 years and government officials who receive bribes to turn a blind eye to the crime face up to five years in jail. Convicted smugglers also face a fine of up to $170,000.
Share This Article With Planet Earth
All About Human Beings and How We Got To Be Here
Music can keep brain sharp into old age
Lawrence, Kan. (UPI) Apr 20, 2011
Music lessons in childhood may keep people's brains sharper as they age even if they don't keep up with playing an instrument, U.S. researchers say. "Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of aging," said lead researcher Brenda Hanna-Pladdy of the University of Kansas. "Sin ... read more
Japan PM says country facing 'crisis within crisis'|
Japan advisor says nuclear threat receding: report
Japan PM declares no-go zone around nuclear plant
Ministers say trade will help Japan quake recovery
Samsung bites back at Apple with lawsuit
Primordial fear: why radiation is so scary
Malaysia tries to soothe concerns over rare earths plant
Over 100,000 paid subscribers for NYTimes.com
Mekong River dam shelved
Britain's first desalination plant opens
NASA Specialists To Descend On Offutt
Fog 'harvesting' could mean water for poor
Melting ice on Arctic islands boosts sea levels: study
Arctic coastline eroding with warming
Arctic Coasts On The Retreat
West Antarctic Warming Triggered By Warmer Sea Surface In Tropical Pacific
Disease hits wheat crops in Africa, Mideast
Nationwide Study Finds US Meat And Poultry Is Widely Contaminated
Activists save Chinese dogs from cooking pot
Japan asks Brazil to ease food import rules
Report Cites "Liquefaction" As Key To Much Of Japanese Earthquake Damage
Floods force hundreds to evacuate in central Canada
DLR Publishes The Results Of Its Volcanic Ash Measurement Flights
Liquefaction major culprit in Japan quake
Burkina Faso president assumes defence post
Work on Sudan split continues
Chinese aid good for Africa: ministers
Military helicopter crashes in Darfur, five dead: army
Television Breakups Can Cause Some Viewers Distress And Lead To More Media Use
Music can keep brain sharp into old age
Asylum seekers torch Australian center
Missing The Gorilla
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|