Sat, Sep 10, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Wire cut at Australian detention center

AP , SYDNEY

In a move intended to symbolize a softening of Australia's tough immigration policy, Immigration minister Amanda Vanstone last Friday began work to cut away razor wire ringing a detention center in Sydney.

The government has long been criticized by human-rights groups and refugee activists for its policy of locking up all illegal immigrants caught sneaking into the country in centers ringed by wire-topped fences and patrolled by private security guards.

Immigration authorities also were criticized in a recent government-ordered inquiry into the wrongful detention and deportation of two Australian citizens -- one of whom was locked up for months in an Outback center and the other sent to the Philippines.

Vanstone said the removal of the wire at Villawood detention center in western Sydney was a demonstration that the government is committed to improving its immigration detention policy.

"The cutting down of the razor wire is a clear indication of the government's good faith," Vanstone said on Friday.

But protesters dismissed the ceremony as a stunt.

"There is no policy change and that's what's desperately needed," said Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition. "There are people rotting inside."

Three protesters were detained when they tried to disrupt the wire cutting. Vanstone scoffed at their protest.

"Are the protesters actually suggesting we leave the razor wire here? I don't think so," she said.

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