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Four escape detention centre
Picture: The West Australian/Dione Davidson

UPDATE: The search has ended for a detainee who escaped from the immigration detention centre at Northam this afternoon.

Serco faces fines for breakout | Three detainees escape from Northam

Of the four males who escaped today, three were recaptured soon after scaling the external fence.

One remained on the run this evening, sparking a major manhunt, with the police canine squad searching the area around the detention centre for the missing detainee.

The police helicopter Polair 61 left Jandakot Airport at 5.46pm to join the search.

Police in four-wheel-drive vehicles scoured bushland while traffic police searched the highways.

The fourth detainee was recaptured this evening and is in police custody.

The Department of Immigration was notified of the breakout just after 3.30pm.

The latest escape comes hot on the heels of a breakout by three men of Vietnamese origin who fled from the Yongah Hill detention centre earlier this month.

One of those who escaped on January 12 still has not been caught.

Today's escape is the fourth breakout from Yongah Hill since August.

A total of 14 detainees have escaped. Two are still on the run.

Under-siege security services provider Serco faces hefty financial penalties after a series of breakouts from the immigration detention centre in Northam.

The West Australian has reported that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison was considering new sanctions against detainees who escaped.

"Currently, if you break out from detention, obviously you go back into detention," Mr Morrison said.

"If there is a need for greater sanctions to discourage this behaviour and looking at the internal procedures and levels of security at Yongah Hill, I want that evaluated as well."

A spokesperson for Mr Morrison said the Minister had expressed his strong dissatisfaction of the performance at Yongah Hill.

"After receiving a report from the service provider, the Minister has asked the Department to review the placement of detainees at Yongah Hill to ensure that those considered to be at a higher risk of absconding are placed at more secure facilities within the network," the spokesperson said.