Vietnamese police officers being granted access to asylum seekers in a Northam detention centre may be the reason five men decided make a break for freedom this month.
The allegations - that the Australian Government allowed officials from the oppressive regime the men claimed they were fleeing to have access to their names and details of where their families live - came to light after five Vietnamese men escaped from the secure Yongah Hill centre on August 17.
Four were caught four days later but the fifth spent eight days on the run before he was caught on Sunday.
Sources at the centre say Vietnamese immigration police officers have been interviewing asylum seekers at Yongah Hill and telling them they have to sign agreements to be repatriated.
"We come here for safety," one asylum seeker told The West Australian.
"So why does the Government, why DIAC (the Department of Immigration and Citizenship) gives the personal folder to police from Vietnam and puts their family into danger?" The man spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"The thing that most of us worry about is that we are facing political problems . . . disagreements about religious freedoms and human rights in Vietnam," another asylum seeker said through a translator.
"(People who carry out) such activities are being tracked down and arrested by the Government in Vietnam."
Refugee Rights Action Network activist Victoria Martin-Iverson said she had heard of the interviews being done in at least three detention centres over the past few weeks.
"My initial response was this can't be right," Ms Martin- Iverson said. "It's highly illegal, it's everything the refugee convention and our international obligations prohibit."
DIAC spokesman Sandi Logan said the department would not comment on "specific details of its liaison with foreign government officials".
“However it has been the department’s custom over successive governments and for many decades to, where required, make provision for foreign government officials to ask questions of clients who have no lawful basis to remain in Australia, so as to establish their identity, their nationality and their right of entry to the foreign country,” Mr Logan said.
Vietnamese Community president (WA), Dr Anh Nguyen, said people who openly criticise the regime in Vietnam are imprisoned and their families targeted by police.
Director of Legal Advocacy for the Human Rights Law Centre Daniel Webb said he couldn’t comment on these specific cases but that one of Australia’s obligations to people who come here seeking protection is that we don’t return them to face harm.
“That means we have to properly and fairly assess their protection claims, (and) we should not do anything that increases the likelihood of them being harmed if they are returned,” Mr Webb said.