20-metre-long escape tunnel found at Australian detention centre: Report

  • The refugee advocates said that the fresh escape attempt has highlighted the prolonged detention of those held in the onshore detention centres in Australia.
The refugee advocates said that the tunnel ran from beneath the floor of room 6F in one of the accommodation blocks.(Refugee Action Coalition)
The refugee advocates said that the tunnel ran from beneath the floor of room 6F in one of the accommodation blocks.(Refugee Action Coalition)
Published on May 11, 2021 03:37 PM IST
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By | Edited by Kunal Gaurav, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

A 20-metre-long underground escape tunnel has been discovered at an immigration detention centre in Australia, according to refugee advocates. The unfinished tunnel dug around three metres deep in the Falcon compound of Yongah Hill detention centre in Western Australia was reportedly found on Monday morning.

The campaign group Refugee Action Coalition said that the tunnel ran from beneath the floor of room 6F in one of the accommodation blocks, underneath two inner fences to within five metres of the outer perimeter fence. The Guardian, quoting the refugee advocates, reported that the tunnel was built “over several months”, but it has not yet been established who dug the tunnel or with what.

In 2001, 23 asylum seekers escaped by tunnelling out of the Villawood detention centre in Sydney. The refugee advocates said that the fresh escape attempt has highlighted the prolonged detention of those held in the onshore detention centres. According to Australian Border Force statistics, around 320 people were held at Yongah Hill as of February 28, 2021, and many of the asylum seekers are very long-term detainees who have been held for over five years.

Ian Rintoul, a spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, said in a statement that the “systematic abuse of long-term detention” is hidden behind the fences of the country’s detention regime. Rintoul accused the detention regime of depriving asylum seekers of their liberty and mental health, claiming that almost none of the oversight that applies to prisoners of the judicial system are applied to detainees.

“The government, for example, is vindictively holding Iranian asylum seekers for years, even though it knows that they cannot be returned to Iran. Indefinite detention is pointless and destructive. Visa cancellation powers allow asylum seekers and refugees to be punished twice, first by the judicial system and then by immigration detention,” the spokesperson added.


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