The immigration department says there will be an inquiry into yesterday’s events at the Villawood Detention Centre, where detainees rioted, climbed onto a building’s roof, and set three fires outside the building.


The latest unrest came after the death of 41-year-old Ahmad Al Akabi, who reportedly killed himself at the centre on Monday after being held in detention for more than a year.

Inmates showed banners pleading for protection in Australia.

A man in his 40s was treated for unknown injuries.

Jamal Daoud of the Social Justice Network says scores of police descended on the centre which was put into lockdown with angry detainees escorted to their rooms.

His death follows that of a 36-year-old Fijian detainee at Villawood in September.

Lawyers have called for an inquiry into the deaths, while mental health experts have slammed conditions inside Australian detention centres.

Protest ends

Fires started by detainees had been put out and all five demonstrators – who climbed onto the centre’s roof on Wednesday afternoon – had come down voluntarily by about 10pm (AEDT), officials said in a statement.

But inmates last night told refugee rights campaigners that the detention centre remained “volatile and tense” after the chaotic scenes in the wake of Ahmad Al Akabi’s death.

“The police are searching rooms, for unknown items,” said Jamal Daoud, of the Social Justice Network, who had been waiting outside the Villawood centre throughout the day.

“Some detainees, who were on the rooftop and others who set furniture on fire, are fearing that they will be sent to maximum security.

“The others are fearing that the police and authorities could confiscate belongings, like mobile phones.”

An immigration department spokesman said the priority now was to ensure the detainees’ “safety and well-being”.

“We are pleased this group chose to end their action,” the spokesman said.

“While we acknowledge this is a difficult time for people inside the centre following a death early on Tuesday, our clear message this week to detainees is that these types of actions simply will not assist or alter the outcomes of their visa applications.”

Upon climbing down, the protest group was offered food and liquids, while also being assessed and monitored by medical staff, the department said.

“The detention services provider will provide a detailed report of the incident to the department,” the spokesman added.

There had been a small fire which resulted in minor property damage to a mattress and several plastic chairs and tables, the department said.

Inmates want inquiry

Inmates and campaigners are calling for an inquiry into the death of Mr Al Akabi, a 41-year-old father of three young daughters, who killed himself at the centre after being held in detention for more than a year.

As well as the dramatic rooftop scenes, other protesters had stopped eating out of protest, campaigners said.

Mr Daoud and members of the Iraqi community were staging a vigil outside Villawood, mourning Mr Akabi’s death, when Wednesday’s demonstration started.

He said three spot fires had been lit but all of them had burnt out by 6pm (AEDT).

Australian Greens immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young expressed concerned for the safety of the asylum seekers involved.

“Understandably, the stress of long-term detention of asylum seekers has continued to build tension and frustration, coupled with the tragic events of this week,” she said.

“It is important to maintain calm and ensure everyone’s safety.”

The Greens and refugee groups have called on the federal government to take measures that ensure the safety of detainees suffering mental illness.

Refugee rights activists say 160 detainees began a hunger strike on Tuesday morning and around 22 Iranian nationals continued their strike into Wednesday.

The federal government denied there was a hunger strike, saying a handful of detainees had refused to eat out of grief.

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