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Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 12:06 GMT
Australia gets tough on rioters
Police with a high-powered water cannon truck patrols the perimeter fence of the Woomera camp
Rioters were dispersed with water cannon and tear gas
Asylum seekers behind a second overnight riot at a remote detention centre in Australia will be moved out, the government has said.

It's outrageous that people who are seeking to enter this country unlawfully ... should be destroying property paid for by taxpayers

Daryl Williams
Acting Immigration Minister
The authorities at the Woomera detention camp in South Australia used water cannon and tear gas to calm the situation, after detainees set fire to five buildings.

Hundreds were reported to have pelted staff with stones and some of them attacked a perimeter fence until extra security arrived.

The night before, 15 buildings were set alight and several were destroyed.

On both occasions the asylum seekers were reported to be chanting demands for visas.

Attorney-General Daryl Williams, speaking as acting immigration minister, said police were investigating and he hoped the ring-leaders would be charged.

"It's entirely unsatisfactory and that's why we want to identify those responsible and remove them and deal with them appropriately," he told reporters on Wednesday.

"I think it's outrageous that people who are seeking to enter this country unlawfully and then using our immigration system to apply for temporary protection visas should be destroying property paid for by taxpayers."

High alert

Refugee campaigners say there is rising discontent in the immigration camps, where asylum seekers can be held for as long as five years before their applications are processed.

Fire at Woomera camp, August 2000
There was a riot at the same camp last August
"In this kind of environment people lose all sense of hope, particularly as they've no notion how long they will be there," said the head of the Refugee Council of Australia, Margaret Piper.

The unrest is the worst of a series of incidents at the camp in the past 18 months.

Government officials have said the damage runs into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

On Wednesday morning, the situation at Woomera was described as calm with no injuries reported, but the centre remained on high alert.

Human rights group Amnesty International has called for an inquiry into Australia's policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers, which includes women and children.

"We believe there should be some form of detention to determine people's identities, health or security risk, but to hold them for any length of time is against international law," Amnesty Australia spokesman Stuart Webb told Australian radio.

Woomera is one of six camps set up in isolated areas to detain asylum seekers while their claims are investigated.

Under the government's hardline policies aimed at deterring boat people, recent arrivals have instead been shipped off to the Pacific island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea to have their claims assessed.

The BBC's Amanda Woods
"Amnesty International is demanding an inquiry"
See also:

19 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia's detention centre in the desert
18 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Migrants set fire to Australian camp
06 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia's offshore camps are 'hellish'
16 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
UN attacks Australia's asylum policy
05 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia's detention camps criticised
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