escape tunnel discovered in Yongah Hill Detention Centre

An elaborate escape tunnel has been uncovered in the Falcon compound of Yongah Hill detention centre in Western Australia.  The tunnel was discovered around 10.00am yesterday morning (Monday 10 May).

The tunnel, around three metres deep and 20 metres long led from beneath the floor of  room 6F in one of the accommodation blocks in Falcon compound (see photo attached), beyond the two inner fences to within five metres of the outer perimeter fence, and freedom.

The tunnel, reminiscent of World War II efforts by prisoners-of-war, is believed to have taken several months of pains-taking construction work.

It is almost 20 years since 23 asylum seekers escaped by tunneling out of the Villawood detention centre in Sydney on 19 July 2001.

The escape attempt has highlighted the prolonged detention of those being held in the onshore detention regime, in places like Yongah Hill, Villawood, MITA and BITA.

According to Border Force statistics as of 28 February 2021 there were around 320 people (180 so-called visa-cancellation and 140 asylum seekers) being held in Yongah Hill where the escape tunnel has been discovered. The statistics also reveal that the average time that people are being held in detention is now over 600 days.  But many of the asylum seekers in Yongah Hill are very long-term detainees who have been held for over five years (some as long as nine years), and who are facing indefinite detention.

“The systematic abuse of long-term detention is hidden behind the fences of Australia’s detention regime. With almost none of the oversight that applies to prisoners of the judicial system, asylum seekers are systematically being deprived of their liberty and mental health. Inside the detention centres, Serco and Border Force are a law unto themselves,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The government, for example, is vindictively holding Iranian asylum seekers for years, even though it knows that they cannot be returned to Iran. Indefinite detention is pointless and destructive. Visa cancellation powers allow asylum seekers and refugees to be punished twice, first by the judicial system and then by immigration detention. 

Detention is the real crime. People are entitled to resist human rights abuse.”

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