Rioters at an Australian immigration detention center set fire to several buildings, climbed onto rooftops and hurled tiles at officials. Of the 400 people held at Sydney’s Villawood Detention Center, more than 100 were involved in the riots.
SMH– (H/T Gavin) -One of the detainees on the roof, an Iranian man named Majid, said they had been forced into these actions because they had no other option. “We were desperate,” he said. “We just want attention. We did not hurt anyone. We did not hurt firemen. We did not attack security. ‘‘I’m not an animal, I’m human. (No you’re not.) I’ve been in the detention centre for 20 months.’’ (Buh Bye! Don’t let the door…)
Riots at Villawood could have a dramatic impact on the asylum claims of those involved, Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan says.Mr Swan said: ‘‘If people have engaged in criminal acts that has a dramatic impact on their standing and what processes they go through.’’
Mr Logan, who called the detainees “clients” (Clients? how about calling them what they are – criminals?) condemned the “appalling” behaviour of protesters who pelted firefighters with tiles, furniture and timber as they arrived to put out the fires.
“At one stage many of the protesters were flinging, were hurling roof tiles and pieces of furniture, and other clumps of wood at the firefighters,” he told ABC Radio. It wasn’t until the riot squad turned up that they were able to go in and tackle the blaze. Mr Logan said non compliant (thug) behavior from asylum seekers was nothing new.
The protesters are believed to have been brought to Villawood from the Christmas Island detention centre. (See link below for more on this)
Protesters set an oxygen cylinder alight, which led to an explosion, and nine buildings – including a medical center and dining hall – were gutted by fire. Around 400 people are held at Villawood. Many of them are asylum seekers, but the facility also houses people who have overstayed their visas.
Immigration department spokesman Sandi Logan said he could not confirm reports the men were protesting because their visa applications had been rejected. “But any suggestion that they’re not being informed of the progress of their claim is nonsense. … I don’t know the motivation,” Logan said. “But it’s clearly not going to help, in terms of endearing their settlement in Australia.”
Logan said officials would not negotiate with the protesters until they came down off the roof. Criminal charges could be filed against the rioters, some of whom threw roof tiles and pieces of furniture at officials trying to get the blaze under control, Logan said.
“It was just like black fumes going up the sky. Buildings – one after one – they just went down,” Alameddine, 17, told The Associated Press. “You could see the riot squad in there – everyone was just going crazy.”
Australia has seen a surge of asylum seekers fleeing Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, and protests at detention centers have become relatively common. The influx has led to a heated political debate as opposition politicians blame the flow on a relaxation of immigration policies by the ruling Labor Party.