AFP – 1 hour ago
SYDNEY — Asylum-seekers protested from the roof of a Sydney immigration centre for a second day on Tuesday after a Fijian man plunged to his death in front of horrified onlookers.
The group of 11 protesters, including nine Sri Lankan Tamils and an Iraqi, are pleading for a review of their cases and have threatened to jump from the two-storey building, media reported.
Negotiators and security guards are on the scene at Villawood detention centre in Sydney's western suburbs. The men, who have been on the roof since Monday and have reportedly refused food and water for more than 24 hours, unfurled a banner saying "We need help and freedom".
The protest follows the death of Fiji's Josefa Rauluni, 36, who leaped from a roof at Villawood after receiving deportation orders. His nephew was among a crowd of people watching.
Activists said the incident had deeply traumatised inmates at Villawood, which houses 300 people and reopened this year to cope with a surge in asylum-seekers arriving in Australia.
"The first person I spoke to, he was a babbling mess and just ended up crying and wasn't able to say anything other than 'I saw it, I saw it, I saw it' and just kept bawling his eyes out," refugee advocate Brami Jagen told public broadcaster ABC.
"The second time I called it was a different person, as soon as he heard my voice he started sobbing and saying 'He's dead, he's dead, why are they doing this to us?'"
Another advocate questioned how staff from private security firm SERCO dealt with the standoff.
"SERCO officers actually put mattresses on the floor and told him to jump," Sara Nathan told ABC.
"He obviously avoided the mattress and jumped off it, away from it. But the fact that they actually told him to jump is upsetting the refugees, and the fact that another SERCO officer climbed the ladder to try and grab him and handcuff him."
The Sydney Morning Herald printed a letter from Rauluni dated September 19 -- the day before his death -- in which he threatened suicide if he was sent back to Fiji under its current military rule.
"I would rather you put me on a raft and usher me down to the South Pole," he wrote, according to the Herald. "If you want to send me to Fiji, then send my dead body."
Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor described the death as a "tragedy" and said SERCO would provide a full report.
"SERCO is engaging with those clients that are on the roof and talking to them so the matter can be resolved properly and peaceably," O'Connor told Sky News.
"We don't want to be inflaming this issue. It is certainly a tragic circumstance for the individual in question and his family."