Detention centre set alight during riot after young man taken to hospital with serious injuries

| 03.09,18. 04:38 PM |



Detention centre set alight during riot after young man taken to hospital with serious injuries


Photo: Aerial vision shows at least eight buildings have been damaged by fire. (Twitter: @ForLovenFreedom




Photo: Detainees scaled fences at the centre during the riot. (Twitter: @ForLovenFreedom)




Photo: The cost of damage to facilities at Yongah Hill has not been confirmed. (Twitter: @ForLovenFreedom)


Riots and fires have broken out at a West Australian detention centre amid rising tensions after a detainee who self-harmed was taken to hospital in a critical condition.


Authorities remain at Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre, 95 kilometres east of Perth, where detainees rioted overnight, setting fire to a number of accommodation units.


The disturbance came after an inmate, described by the Refugee Action Coalition as a 22-year-old Iraqi man, was reportedly found in his cell with serious injuries following an apparent suicide attempt.


He was flown by the Royal Flying Doctor Service to Perth last night and transferred to Royal Perth Hospital, but the Australian Border Force (ABF) declined to reveal any more details about his condition.


More than 20 firefighters joined police at the centre after the riot broke out.


The fire has since been extinguished and there were no reported injuries to staff or detainees from the disturbance.


Footage from outside the centre overnight showed an orange glow from the fire, while men could be heard yelling.


A 'pressure-cooker' environment


A detainee inside the Hawk Compound of Yongah Hill, who asked not to be named, said the incident began as a protest by detainees in the neighbouring Falcon Compound, who wanted information on the man who reportedly self-harmed.


The man said he watched through the fence as tensions boiled over and it quickly escalated into what he said looked like a war zone.


"It's been building for a long time because they over-crowded this bloody centre," he said.


"It's like a pressure-cooker environment, it's been building up because detainees have been locked up for many years.


"Last night, when all these things had been heating up and the detainees wanted to launch a protest, no one wanted to hear them."


He said detainees in the Falcon Compound gathered in front of the officers' station requesting to see a manager, but "it pretty much fell on deaf ears".


He said detainees started burning mattresses, clothing and anything else they could get their hands on.


Border Force threatens criminal action


An ABF spokesman said "a small number of detainees" were responsible for the disturbance.


"All detainees and staff are safe and accounted for and there have been no reported injuries," the ABF spokesman said.


"A number of accommodation areas have been damaged. A full assessment of the damage will be made in due course.


"We are committed to ensuring the safety of those in immigration detention and will not tolerate violent and aggressive behaviour within IDCs [immigration detention centres].


"We will take all appropriate steps to stamp out such activity and if criminal offences have occurred, they will be referred to police."


The spokesman said the detainee who was sent to hospital was "receiving appropriate medical care", but said the ABF could not comment further on individual cases.


Earlier reports of a death at the detention centre were denied by the ABF.


A number of St John Ambulances were also sent to the centre during the riot, but no patients were treated.


WA Police Minister Michelle Roberts said she was concerned by the reports of the riot.


"They're very disturbing and clearly they're using a considerable amount of police resource, but public safety is number one, so that's why we have our police deployed there," she said.


It is understood more than 50 police officers including personnel from the Regional Operations Group remained at the centre on Monday.


A number of St John Ambulances were also sent to the centre during the riot, but no patients were treated.


WA Police Minister Michelle Roberts said she was concerned by the reports of the riot.


"They're very disturbing and clearly they're using a considerable amount of police resource, but public safety is number one, so that's why we have our police deployed there," she said.


It is understood more than 50 police officers including personnel from the Regional Operations Group remained at the centre on Monday.


"This is a shocking story," spokesman Ian Rintoul said.


"There was more than warning. He should not have been in Yongah Hill. He needed mental health assistance, and got nothing.


"He is a victim of neglect. He is a victim of detention."


Mr Rintoul said the detainees were angry at how the situation had been handled.


"I've spoken to a number of the people in Yongah Hill inside who are very distressed and quite angry," he said.


It is understood that there is no medical support at Yongah Hill on weekends.


Community concern over Yongah Hill changes


Northam Shire president Chris Antonio praised local emergency services for reacting quickly to the riot.


"They did a great show and that is a good show for the community spirit within the Shire of Northam," he said.


Many Northam locals expressed concern last year when parts of the detention centre were rebuilt to house increasing numbers of high and extreme risk foreign nationals.


Mr Antonio said the decision evoked mixed opinions.


"I think any time there is change and any development within the community some people will be in favour and some people will not be," he said.


"Obviously, it is a decision made by federal agencies, but as the refugee situation in Australia has changed the Immigration Department has changed it [the detention centre] to suit what its needs are."


Mr Antonio said despite the incident, community did not appear overly worried about any ongoing threat to public safety from the detention centre.


"You don't actually get too much negative feedback about it," he said.


"It is here and it is visible, but it is part of the community.


"It does provide jobs for some locals and it's here, probably not going anywhere, so you learn to live with it and make the best out of it."




abc


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