80 asylum seekers break out from detention center in Australia

11:37, March 12, 2011      

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Some 80 asylum seekers have broken out from the Christmas Island Detention Center, Australian Immigration department confirmed on Saturday.

According to Australia Associated Press (AAP), the immigration department spokesman said there had been an "incident" that involved several hundred detainees, and 50 to 80 had broken out from the center early Saturday morning.

The spokesman refused to describe what the "incident" was.

He said that the mood inside the center is tense but there have been no reports of injuries to staff or detainees, and the detention services provider along with Department of Immigration and Citizenship staff and police are continuing their efforts to restore calm to the center.

The spokesman added that some of the people who broke out had now returned to the center and the federal police was monitoring detainees.

"Not that many are outside now, most of them are in process of returning to the center,"he said.

A member of the Tamil community familiar with the situation told Herald Sun that the detainees, all men, were carrying sticks and rods and had jumped over the fences along the compound they were being kept in at about 01:00 a.m. local time.

The Tamil community member, who asked not to be named, said the current tensions were linked to an earlier fight a few weeks ago at the center between member of different communities.

He said since that fight, the detainees at the center have been kept within their compounds and not allowed to interact.

Meanwhile, Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said tension and frustration had been building over delays with processing asylum claims and restrictions placed on movements between compounds on Friday.

"The delays in processing are unforgivable," Rintoul told AAP on Saturday.

"There are refugees waiting for over 18 months for security clearances after they have been found to be refugees.

"The breakout is reminiscent of the breakouts from Woomera and Port Hedland in the early 2000s as detention conditions became unbearable."

Currently, there are 2,539 asylum seekers and 18 crew members who arrived in Australia by boat being held at detention centers in Christmas Island.

Source: Xinhua

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