Tuesday November 12 2005 13:45pm WST
For Immediate Release
"WA Human Rights lobby group is extremely disturbed about media reports with DIMIA comment issued this morning, related to "several fires" which started at 4am this morning in the kitchen area of the Baxter White One compound."
Spokesman Jack H Smit commented on the quick and unfounded conclusion drawn by DIMIA officials in Canberra this morning, that the fires were linked to unrest in Baxter.
"There was no unrest when the fire started. The fire started in the kitchen at 4am. All detainees were asleep. None of the immigration jail residents - many of them refugees - were aware of the fire until they were woken up by GSL guards and DIMIA staff. 89 detainees from White One were then transported to Red One, away from the fire. Several men were treated for smoke inhalation in the medical clinic inside the Baxter jail."
"What the DIMIA response of this morning actually shows, is that DIMIA up till now fails abysmally in its promised 'change of culture'. The response from the Immigration Department is as predictable as it ever was - blame detainees."
"The appalling imprisonment of immigration detainees in maximum-security prisons creates unrest on a full-time basis, because that's what a prison culture brings with it."
"And DIMIA walks straight into this culture by showing it acts like "screws" in jails - blaming detainees without having researched what really is going on."
One advocate wrote this morning: "The fire was in White 1, a single men's compound. It is not one presently used to house Indonesian fishers, so most residents are asylum seekers. The fire destroyed to kitchen and the laundry. My friend is in another compound and does not know how the fire started - he is not aware of any particular protests in White 1 at present. Detainees in White 1 have been moved to Red 2. I have another contact who is usually housed in White 1, but when I asked to speak to him I was told calls are not being put through to people from this compound at present."
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
58 Baxter detainees evacuated
ABC ONLINE NEWS
Saturday November 12 2005
Fifty-eight detainees have been evacuated from Baxter detention centre at Port Augusta in South Australia because of several fires, apparently deliberately lit.
The main blaze broke out at about 4:15am ACST, believed to be in the kitchen area.
Fire brigade spokesman Richard Gray says since then another three fires have been reported in a compound known as "White One", which houses single men.
"The fact that we have four fires within one compound does suggest that these have been deliberately lit," he said.
While details remain sketchy on the exact nature of the disturbance, the latest reports suggest three detainees have been removed and that the situation is now under control.
The Immigration Department says several detainees have been treated for minor injuries, and one of them has been taken to hospital.
The Immigration Department has confirmed there was a disturbance at the time of the fires, but reports that it extended to rioting drew this response from department spokesman David Seale.
"Police, ambulance and the fire brigade were on the scene and worked with Baxter staff to bring the situation under control as quickly as possible," he said.
Three units from Adelaide have gone to Port Augusta to help with the clean-up and investigation.
Truck driver Gary Hall passed by Baxter this morning.
"By the amount of smoke that was coming out of the centre it looks like it's quite a large fire," he said.