This is good news. Pictures of illegals rioting and protesting about being locked up were a major factor in stopping the flow under the Howard government. Potential illegals decided that they didn’t like the look of where they would end up so stopped coming. One hopes that TV images of the latest protest went around the world — as they did last time

More than 80 asylum-seekers broke out of an Australian immigration detention centre on Wednesday after days of riots and staged a seven-hour protest outside, police said.

The detainees escaped from the centre in the far northern city of Darwin at about 6:30 am, a spokeswoman told AFP. Media reports said the protesters were Afghans and unfurled a banner saying, “We need protection not detention”.

Police said the protest ended when 76 were taken into custody at the Darwin watchhouse and another five, including two suffering from heat exhaustion, were taken to a nearby hospital where they remained under immigration custody. “They peacefully came into our custody,” Assistant Police Commissioner Rob Kendrick told reporters.

The mass break-out comes after more than 100 alleged people-smugglers torched mattresses and staged a protest on the roof of the detention centre in two days of disturbances on Sunday and Monday.

The centre for 450 people is housing 151 Indonesians accused of people-smuggling, with the remainder asylum seekers or people who have overstayed visas.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said all the men who escaped Wednesday were asylum seekers. “Many of them have actually had their initial claim for asylum refused, and there is a protest activity,” Senator Evans told reporters. “I stress these are asylum seekers, they are not criminals, and they are seeking support… for their claims for asylum.”

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

But increased numbers of poor immigrants — more than 4,000 this year, mainly poor Asians fleeing conflict and economic hardship — have forced the reopening of isolated centres on the country’s mainland.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the protest was symptomatic of the overcrowding in centres. “This is a pressure cooker situation,” he said.