Detainees at immigration detention centres on Australian shores have successfully escaped more than 80 times since July 2013, government figures reveal.
Australian Border Force (ABF) figures showed detainees had staged 180 attempts to flee from authorities and, of those, 81 had been successful. The remaining 99 attempts were thwarted.
Though 81 attempts were successful, the total number of detainees who escaped detention during the period would be higher because some reported incidents have involved more than one person.
While Australia’s onshore immigration detention centres house people who have overstayed their visas and people claiming asylum, the facilities are also used to lock up criminals awaiting deportation.
Though some centres are in remote areas, detainees have also escaped facilities that operate in the suburbs of Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.
The figures, made public through the Senate Estimates process, do suggest authorities have managed to reduce the number of escapes, though there are about one quarter as many detainees as there were in 2013.
The number of successful escapes fell from 33 in 2013-14 to seven in the 2016-17 financial year.
This year’s figure is likely to be higher, though, with eight successful attempts already recorded between July 2017 and February 2018.
The figures come as the Turnbull government pursues new laws to ban mobile phones in immigration detention facilities.
The government has argued the harsher conditions are required because mobile phones can and have been used by detainees to hatch and carry out their escape plans.
But the ABF told a Senate committee last year it was only aware of two escapes in which mobile phones were used.
There were 1004 people held in Australia’s onshore immigration detention centres, according to departmental statistics from February. In October 2013, the figure was 4072.
The figures were provided to the Senate in response to a written question from Labor to the department.
When asked by The New Daily, the ABF would not release more details about the incidents, including the overall number of detainees who had escaped or how many had been re-detained. It would also not provide figures for the number of escapes during the previous Labor government.
“Further data beyond what has already been provided to Senate Estimates is not publicly available,” a spokesperson said.
“Escapes from immigration detention are infrequent and have reduced over recent years.”
Shayne Neumann, the shadow minister for immigration and border protection, laid the blame squarely at Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s feet.
“[He] has been too busy posturing for the Liberal leadership to do his job properly,” Mr Neumann said.
“Peter Dutton needs to explain how these escapes occurred and what risks were presented to the community.”
In January, Crikey reported that two men had escaped from the Melbourne detention facility in Broadmeadows on New Year’s Eve.
Bikie gang associates and violent criminals have been among the detainees reported to have escaped from detention in recent years.
The Yongah Hill detention facility in Burlong, Western Australia, was the least secure, according to the figures, with 17 incidents where detainees escaped authorities since July 2013.
Yongah Hill, which is managed privately by Serco, is currently being rebuilt as a high-security facility to cope with an increasingly high number of foreign nationals linked to organised crime gangs.
Mr Dutton was contacted for comment.
Escapes from detention – July 2013 to February 2017
- 2017-18: 17 escape attempts, eight successful
- 2016-17: 26 escape attempts, seven successful
- 2015-16: 26 escape attempts, 14 successful
- 2014-15: 53 escape attempts, 19 successful
- 2013-14: 58 escape attempts, 33 successful
Least secure facilities- July 2013 to February 2017
- Yongah Hill IDC, 17 escape attemps
- Maribyrnong IDC, 13 escape attempts
- Villawood IDC, nine escape attempts
- Adelaide ITA, three escape attempts
- Wickham Point APOD, three escape attempts