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Two fires broke out at Australia immigration detention center: official

(Xinhua)

15:49, August 31, 2011

CANBERRA, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- Two fires on Wednesday broke out during a protest at an immigration detention center in northern Australia, an immigration department spokeswoman confirmed.

The spokeswoman told Australia Associated Press (AAP) that one fire that erupted early Wednesday at the Northern Immigration Detention Center in Darwin was extinguished, but that a second blaze has later broken out. There are no reports of injuries.

She said most of those involved in Wednesday's protest were Indonesian boat crew members being held at the center.

According to Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul, the fires were not started by asylum seekers, and the Indonesian Muslim boat crew members were protesting against the refusal to let them celebrate the end of Ramadan.

He added that an asylum seeker from inside the center had told him a compound had been extensively damaged, with up to 20 rooms burnt out.

The fire came just hours before Australian federal government's refugee swap deal with Malaysia has been ruled unlawful by the High Court.

Recently, Northern Immigration Detention Center has seen a surge of asylum seekers fleeing Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, and protests at detention centers have been increasing, including a roof-top hunger strike in July.

Also in July, refugee advocates said there were six attempted suicides at the center.

In a move to stop illegal boat arrival, Australia signed a deal with Malaysia, which will see Australia transfer 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia, in return for Malaysia sending 4,000 registered refugees for resettlement.

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