Detention protest \’a mystery\’

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship still does not know what triggered a violent protest by illegal Chinese immigrants at Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre in Melbourne\’s west.


About 20 detainees went on a destructive spree, wrecking furniture at the centre in Hampstead Road about 8pm (AEST) on Monday.

Emergency crews from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade were placed on stand-by outside the facility as detention services provider G4S brought the situation under control.

When asked what triggered the unrest, an immigration spokesman told AAP: “Their reasons were their own”.

“There was some property damage but the detention services provider got it under control pretty quickly,” the spokesman said. The protesters were among 39 illegal immigrants detained in March at a Warrnambool abattoir.

Emergency authorities were placed on standby outside the centre, but staff inside managed to bring the unrest under control. No one was injured.

The damage was estimated at around 5,000 dollars, the immigration department said.

Refugees \’uncertain about their future\’

Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul said many detainees in Australia\’s mainland immigration centres were Chinese who faced an uncertain future.

“They spend a long time in detention waiting for decisions on their refugee claim,” Mr Rintoul told AFP.

“There\’s a lack of transparency, and many of them are getting caught up in the technicalities of making a claim.”

Mr Rintoul said the prospect of returning to China was notably unsettling for those who considered themselves democracy activists or were followers of the Falun Gong religious group.

Australia\’s refugee policy has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks, especially after five asylum seekers died and dozens more were injured in an explosion on a boat off the northwest coast last week.

Last year, the centre-left government scrapped a widely-criticised system that often resulted in asylum seekers, including children, being locked up for years.

The opposition conservatives have blamed the softer policy for an increase in the number of boatpeople making for Australia\’s shores.