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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Australian break-out refugees in court
Cars being searched close to Woomera
Most of the escapees were quickly caught
Thirty asylum seekers who broke out of an Australian outback detention centre over the weekend have appeared in court charged with breaking immigration laws.

Detainee climbs through a breach in the fence at the Woomera detention centre in South Australia, 29 March 2002
Activists helped detainees escape the centre
The court in Adelaide granted each of them bail, but they were to be sent back to the Woomera camp, 450 kilometres (280 miles) north of the city.

At least 10 asylum seekers are still at large, having escaped the camp on Friday night during violent demonstrations by around 1,000 activists.

Two more escapees were captured on Tuesday when they flagged down an unmarked police van taking police officers home.

Map
Assistant Commissioner Graham Brown told ABC news the asylum seekers had no provisions with them but were in good health.

He said police were confident of finding the others along the same route, about 160km (99 miles) south of Woomera, towards Port Augusta.

"We've got patrols in that area," he said. "In previous experience we've found they do wander onto the main highway."

Riots and hunger strikes

Police have warned that the asylum seekers could die of dehydration if they try to cross the desert. They said protesters who helped the migrants escape could be held responsible if anyone died.

Police detain one of the protesters
Thirty protesters are due in court in May
In total about 50 asylum seekers escaped on Friday after protesters stormed the camp and passed bolt cutters to detainees to help them cut through razor-wire fences.

Refugee groups have said a number of escapees have reached major cities and are being cared for by sympathisers.

About 30 activists arrested at Woomera are due in court in May. Those charged with harbouring detainees face prison terms of up to four years.

The weekend escapes capped a series of riots, hunger strikes and attempted suicides by asylum seekers, most of whom are from the Middle East or Afghanistan.

Under Australia's policy, illegal immigrants are held in detention centres while their asylum claims are processed. They have complained the process can take years.

Since last August, the government has clamped down even further, sending new boatpeople intercepted at sea to camps on remote South Pacific island nations.

Over the past two years, detainees at Woomera have staged a series of sometimes violent demonstrations, including a hunger strike earlier this year when many of those involved sewed their lips together.

Australia accepts more than 10,000 refugees each year through an official United Nations programme.

See also:

01 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Search continues for Australian refugees
31 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Activists outwit Australia's asylum policy
30 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Australian police hunt camp escapees
29 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Woomera riot
24 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Australia lifts asylum claim freeze
23 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Australia stands by asylum policy
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