Riot at Australian detention centre

29.Mar.02,  first published by BBCnews: read the original article here.

Up to 20 asylum seekers, including one child, broke out of a detention facility in the Australian outback as crowds of protesters struggled with police outside.
Some of the detainees scaled fences topped with razor wire, while others broke through holes in the fences at the Woomera Detention Centre in South Australia.
The escapes occurred as a crowd of about 1,000 opponents of the government's policy towards asylum seekers attempted to storm the remote compound.
An Australian immigration department spokesman said some protesters helped asylum seekers cut holes in fences and escape.
Spokesman Paul Oliver said police had recaptured 12, but that police were searching for several others.

Hidden in the crowd

Over the past two years, detainees at Woomera have staged a series of violent demonstrations, including a hunger strike earlier this year when many of those involved sewed their lips together.
The BBC's Phil Mercer at Woomera said the activists had crossed a restricted area singing and chanting, before ripping down perimeter fences and moving inside.
The asylum seekers who managed to escape, some of whom emerged bleeding, were surrounded by the crowds of protesters who immediately dressed them in new clothes and whisked them away.


One woman detained at the centre dashed through a hole in a fence with both arms raised yelling "Freedom! Freedom!"
She was grabbed by a security guard, but a group of protesters managed to pull her free and she escaped.
Another refugee ran out shouting: "After two years I'm free!"
Some escapees are now believed to be hiding in the demonstrators' camp about 1.5 kilometre (one mile) from the detention centre. Police have set up roadblocks to try and prevent the escapees being taken away from the area.
"Police are trying to negotiate with us, but I think they are just biding their time until reinforcements arrive and then they'll do a clean sweep of the camp," said Andrea Maksimovic, one of the protesters.
Inside the detention facility other asylum seekers waved shirts and chanted "visa, visa, visa!"
The authorities had warned earlier of their concern that the protest might incite the asylum seekers into a riot.

Prison conditions

Busloads of demonstrators from a broad coalition of groups, from socialists and students to environmentalists, are continuing to converge on the facility to stage a weekend of protests against conditions there.
Some have described Woomera as "a concentration camp".
But the Australian Government insists it is a humane environment, and has defended the mandatory detention of asylum seekers on security and health grounds.
Up to 800 detainees can be held within its razor wire fences while their applications for refugee status are considered.
The process takes a few months on average, but can last up to five years.
More than 300 detainees are currently believed to be in the centre, most of them from Afghanistan and Iraq.