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Thursday, 20 December, 2001, 06:58 GMT
Asylum escape foiled
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
Guards have used water cannon to prevent an attempted break out by at least 50 asylum seekers from a detention camp in Australia.

The escape attempt, at the remote Woomera centre in South Australia came after two days of rioting in which buildings were set alight and guards attacked.

An Immigration Department spokesman said the asylum seekers used bed frames and metal poles to tear down a fence shortly before midnight.

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.

The government said on Wednesday it would remove organisers of the protests from the centre.

Inquiry demand

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

Fire at Woomera camp, August 2000
There was a riot at the same camp last August
Government officials have said the damage runs into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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 gets tough on rioters
18 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Migrants set fire to Australian camp
19 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia's detention centre in the desert
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
19 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
More riots at Australian camp
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