China protesters` Sydney roof jump threat: Activist

Australia has a policy of mandatory detention for asylum-seekers.

Last Updated: Sep 23, 2010, 15:07 PM IST

Sydney: One of nine Chinese nationals protesting on the roof of an Australian immigration centre will jump if officials do not agree to review their cases by Thursday afternoon, an activist said.

The nine, believed to be aged between 20 and 27 years and including a pregnant woman, have been on the two-storey Sydney detention building since 8:00 am Wednesday, following earlier protests and a suicidal leap this week.

"What they`re saying to me is that if they don`t hear back from the department of immigration by 2:30 pm (0430 GMT) one of them will be jumping off the building," refugee activist Ramesh Fernandez said.

"They`ve requested that the department of immigration give them protection visas because if they go back they will be persecuted. As you can imagine the stress of this current situation is getting worse."

Fernandez spoke to the group by telephone through an interpreter and said they were extremely dehydrated, having refused food and water for three days. One of the four women on the roof is reported to be pregnant.

The protest follows a 30-hour standoff with a group of Sri Lankan Tamils which ended on Tuesday and was prompted by the death of a 36-year-old Fijian man who leapt off a roof a day earlier, traumatising fellow inmates.

Australia has a policy of mandatory detention for asylum-seekers while their claims are processed, and generally holds detainees on remote Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

But increasing numbers of illegal immigrants arriving by boat -- more than 4,000 so far this year -- have forced the reopening of mainland centres, including Sydney`s Villawood facility, which houses about 300 people.

Bureau Report