14 Aug 2010

Escaped asylum seekers reportedly heading for Australia

6:20 am on 14 August 2010

A group of asylum seekers who escaped from an Indonesian detention centre on Friday may be trying to get to Australia.

Officials in Kupang, the capital of West Timor, say 44 people escaped from the detention centre but only 23 have been recaptured.

The ABC reports West Timor is a key staging point for people smugglers who take asylum seekers south to Australia's Ashmore Reef.

Those intercepted by the Indonesian authorities are held at the Kupang detention centre.

Many asylum seekers have been sleeping in tents in the exercise yard because 247 people were crowded into the detention centre which is designed to hold 66.

Police have told the ABC the escapees were assisted by people smugglers who threw ropes over the walls of the centre at night.

Three members of the ring have been arrested.

The ABC reports asylum seekers detained in Kupang are usually found by the United Nations to be refugees.