November 11, 2005

Fire at Australian outback immigration center

CANBERRA (Reuters) - More than 50 inmates were evacuated
from a wing of an outback immigration detention center in
Australia early on Saturday after a series of fires were lit
during early-morning protests.

An Immigration Department spokesman said the fires broke
out shortly after 4 a.m. at the Baxter detention center in the
South Australia state, which houses about 250 illegal

"All areas of Baxter are now calm," the spokesman told
Reuters, adding that the fires appeared to have been
deliberately lit.

He said 58 single men were evacuated from their wing of the
detention center. One person was taken to hospital suffering
smoke inhalation, while five others were treated at the scene.

Australia has a strict policy of detention for people who
have overstayed their visas and asylum seekers who arrive
illegally in the country, although the government this year
agreed to allow children and family groups to live in community

The detention centers have been criticized by human rights
organizations, who say the indefinite detention of asylum
seekers and illegal arrivals breaches international human
rights conventions.

Fire fighters said four separate fires were lit during
apparent unrest at Baxter, but the Immigration Department
spokesman said local media reports of a riot at the center
could not be substantiated.

"While there was some commotion around the time of the
fire, the situation was quickly brought under control," he