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Australia seeks three escaped Chinese asylum seekers

30 March 10 04:33 GMT
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

A nationwide hunt is continuing for three Chinese detainees who have escaped from an immigration centre in Australia's biggest city, Sydney.

The search comes as the government in Canberra starts to transfer failed asylum seekers out of its offshore camp on Christmas Island.

They are being moved to the mainland pending deportation.

At least 30 boatloads of unauthorised arrivals have headed into Australian waters so far this year.

The escape of three Chinese nationals from Sydney's Villawood Immigration Detention Centre is a further embarrassment for the government and the private company that runs the facility.

Escape routes

Australian police believe the men climbed over a fence at the high security unit.

A nationwide search for them is underway.

Earlier this month four inmates absconded from Villawood, including a detainee who strapped himself to the bottom of a builder's lorry.

Another man from Ghana disappeared after being let out to go to church.

Australia's deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard is demanding tighter security.

"This is a problem with the management of the Villawood detention centre that is managed by Serco," she said. "We obviously don't want to see any repeat of this poor conduct."

The Villawood immigration centre has taken on extra staff to cope with an influx of detainees from a processing camp on Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory in the Indian Ocean, which is close to capacity.

Eighty-nine men, who have had their applications for refugee status rejected, have been flown to Sydney while the authorities prepare to send them home.

The government believes that unrest in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iraq is the driving force behind a surge in unauthorised arrivals.

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