Multiple escapes from WA detention centre

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16 Jan 2019

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

It’s not been a good six months for detention centre operator Serco in Western Australia.


Vietnamese asylum seekers have escaped from the Serco-run Yongah Hills detention centre three times.

And a reportedly leaked report reveals it took the third group of escapees just 45 seconds to find freedom.

Ryan Emery reports.

Every Sunday refugee advocate Sarah Ross visits Yongah Hill detention centre just outside the WA country town of Northam.

But on a recent visit this month, her time was cut short as security guards in the reception area suddenly sprang into action.

Three Vietnamese asylum seekers had reportedly scaled several fences, including an electrified one.

Two were recaptured, but the third is still on the run.

Sarah Ross:

“When I was standing in reception to get the visit processed, there was a number of guards sitting around the reception area. Some of them were ERT: Emergency Response Team guards, and then suddenly within the space of a few seconds they had stood up and bolted towards the door. They bolted outside and I saw them running between the perimeter fences and then a van followed them and then a few minutes later a police car came up. So it was pretty intense within the span of a couple of seconds and they’d bolted towards the fences.”

Sarah Ross was told to leave.

The escape was the third time Vietnamese asylum seekers had fled the Serco-operated centre.

Last August, a group of five sparked a week-long manhunt, but they were all eventually recaptured and then reportedly sent to Christmas Island.

In December, another two escaped, but this time only one was recaptured.

With the breakout in January, it makes two Vietnamese asylum seekers on the run.

News Limited has reported a Serco insider says there is a culture of dysfunction at the centre, and security is lax.

A supposedly leaked report reveals the voltage on the electrified fence is not strong enough to adequately shock escapees and its structure makes it easy to climb.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says he’s not happy with Serco.

The minister’s office says the contract includes “abatements” or reduced payments for breaches of the agreed terms including security errors.

But exactly how much it costs the global giant is a commercial secret.

Sarah Ross says the Vietnamese asylum seekers are fleeing the centre because they have been visited by Vietnamese police officers.

“They were basically abusing the Vietnamese asylum seekers in Vietnamese and in the process of creating that link they were revealing the asylum seekers were they lived who their family was to the police and consequently some people’s family were visited by the Vietnam police back in Vietnam so it was an awful tactic that was only stopped because activists were able to reveal it.”

Advocates say the Vietnamese are Catholics who are persecuted in their home country.

The federal government says those who visited the Vietnamese in the Yongah Hill centre were not police officers.

It says they were immigration officials who needed to verify the identity of those who were about to be deported.



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