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Prison break plot thwarted after 20-meter tunnel discovered in Australian detention center, reportedly dug using parts of fridge

Prison break plot thwarted after 20-meter tunnel discovered in Australian detention center, reportedly dug using parts of fridge
Authorities have discovered an underground escape tunnel at an immigration detention facility in Western Australia. Media reports that the 20-meter-long tunnel was dug using makeshift tools.

Guards at the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre in Western Australia discovered the tunnel on Monday. It was up to 20 meters long and had been dug with makeshift tools beneath one of the rooms by a Polish detainee, according to Australian media reports quoting sources inside the facility. 

The Australian Border Force confirmed the attempted escape, describing the tunnel as a “partially dug hole.” It said all detainees were accounted for and the matter had been referred to the Australian Federal Police.

The tunnel “was quite well advanced,” Australia’s broadcaster ABC said, quoting refugee advocates. “They'd been doing quite a good job over a number of months. It was about three meters deep... it was already past the two inner fences. Another five meters would have got them beyond the outer perimeter fence. It has been quite a thorough job," said Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition.

Detainees reportedly spent five months digging the tunnel, the entrance to which was hidden beneath a chest of drawers in one of the rooms, CNN reports, citing a source within the country's immigration system. 

CNN also said that the detainees used whatever utensils they could get their hands on, including parts of a fridge and a wooden drawer. They worked when guards weren't looking, by the light of their mobile phones and candles.

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Refugee activists say there have been several escapes over the fence at Yongah Hill but this was the first tunnel. Several Vietnamese nationals fled the facility after scaling the fence in 2013.

It hasn’t yet been officially confirmed whether one detainee or a group were behind the escape plan.

There are around 320 detainees currently held at Yongah Hill, among them 80 asylum seekers who arrived illegally, around 170 non-citizens who have had their visas cancelled on character grounds, including for committing a serious crime, and those detained for other border violations who are awaiting removal from Australia. 

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