Thursday, 19 January 2012

Asylum seekers tunnel to freedom in Indonesia

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Asylum seekers protesting on the roof of the V...
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By Matt Brown

About 30 asylum seekers have escaped from an Indonesian detention centre by digging a tunnel under the wall.

The men escaped through the two-metre tunnel in Surabaya city after using spoons, nails and sticks to dig their way from a toilet, under the main gate to freedom.

As some dug, others had played the traditional South Asian board game of carrom to distract the guards.

All of them, including one who survived the shipwreck which killed about 200 people last month, are believed to be from the Hazara ethnic group.

Immigration officers learned of the Sunday night breakout when an elderly escapee was spotted on the road outside the detention centre in East Java.

So far just 12 have been recaptured.
"The migrants dug the tunnel from the restroom in the church, which is positioned close to the main gate," the head of the East Java provincial ministry, Mashudi, told AFP.

"They managed to dig a space wide and long enough to eventually find their way out."
The escapees said they were frustrated because they had been waiting more than a year for the UN refugee agency to assess their claims.

Some have travelled to Jakarta to press their case while others are believed to be trying to arrange a boat trip to Australia.

The immigration department chief in the province, Arifin Somadilaga, has ordered a crackdown on asylum seekers in the wake of the escape.

He has directed his staff to report all future breaches of discipline to the police who will be urged to treat the asylum seekers as criminals.

He says guards at the centre did not notice the detainees digging a hole under the wall because they are understaffed.

The escape comes after some of the detention centre's detainees told the ABC of beatings from guards.

One of the men who was beaten, Ali Mohammed, said he had earlier escaped the detention centre but was recaptured.
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