Vietnam escapees sorry, Qld court hears

Father-of-two Tuan Quoc Vu feared he would be detained indefinitely by police for taking part in a protest in Vietnam.


But to his wife’s relief he was released after 40 days behind bars.

Fearing he’d again be arrested, he decided to board a boat destined for Australia with other asylum seekers.

Earlier this year he arrived in Darwin and was transferred to the Scherger Detention Centre near the Cape York township of Weipa.

Fearing his application for asylum in Australia would be rejected, he and a group of other Vietnamese men decided to escape from the centre on May 23.

They scaled a fence and then, with the aid of helpers, drove to Weipa Airport where six of the men flew 800km southeast to Cairns.

Tipped off by a travel agent, police arrested six of the men at a popular backpackers in Cairns less than 13 hours after they escaped.

A seventh escapee was arrested at Weipa Airport.

On Tuesday six of the men pleaded guilty to one charge under the Immigration Act in the Cairns Magistrates Court.

A seventh escapee, Van Doan Dinh, was due to appear in court but it was revealed that he has again managed to flee from detention centre authorities.

The Immigration Department says Dinh escaped over the weekend, this time from Sydney’s Fairfield Hospital where he was being treated for a medical condition.

A warrant for his arrest was issued on Tuesday.

During Tuesday’s court appearance defence lawyer Kellie Walker told the court the men had fled Vietnam because they feared for their safety.

At least two of the men said they were worried they would be arrested for taking part in student protests.

Thanh Minh Le, a 32-year-old builder, said he had been persecuted because he was Catholic.

Anh Dang, a 23-year-old lumberjack, said he came to Australia because he feared he was going to be arrested by police for cutting down a tree he didn’t have permission to fell.

Dang told Ms Walker he escaped from Scherger because he had heard that applications for asylum by Vietnamese nationals were being rejected.

All of the men, except for Dang, said they didn’t want to return to Vietnam.

During sentencing Magistrate Anthony Gett acknowledged the reasons why the men had fled Vietnam and said the men were genuinely remorseful for escaping from Scherger.

However, he described their plan to escape as sophisticated.

“It is clear that there has been a level of planning in your escape,” he said.

The magistrate said most of the men knew few details about the escape plan, other than to climb the fence at Scherger during the early hours of May 23.

He released the men on 18-month good behaviour orders but they will remain at Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney.

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