Sun, Jun 11, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Canberra releases more detention figures

AFP , SYDNEY

Australia has revealed dozens of its citizens have been wrongfully detained as illegal immigrants under a long-standing government clampdown on asylum seekers.

Figures released in parliament by the conservative government late on Friday showed authorities were investigating 220 cases of wrongful detention, 26 of which involved Australian citizens.

Responding to a question from the opposition Labor Party, Attorney General Philip Ruddock also told parliament the government had paid more than A$800,000 (US$600,000) in 11 wrongful detention compensation claims since 1995. Previously the government had acknowledged only two cases of Australians being wrongfully detained under its tough border protection policies.

The new figures come as the Labor Party called for a police investigation into allegations of rape and widespread drug abuse at Australia's second-largest immigration detention center at Villawood in Sydney.

The Weekend Australian paper reported that the immigration department had ordered an independent investigation into allegations a female detainee at the center was repeatedly raped in front of her toddler over six months because she could not lock the door to her room.

The newspaper said the probe, by former Queensland state prisons chief Keith Hamburger, would also investigate a report a guard at the privately-run center raped a woman who was visiting a detainee and claims illicit drugs are readily available to inmates.

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