Monday, 15 November 2010

Australia's factories of mental illness have claimed yet another victim

NEW calls have been made for an overhaul of immigration detention following the apparent suicide of an Iraqi detainee at Sydney's Villawood centre. Detainees were today staging a hunger strike following the man's death, which comes after a series of rooftop protests at Villawood sparked by the suicide of Fijian detainee Josefa Rauluni in September.

The Greens today demanded an overhaul of Australia's immigration detention system, while refugee advocates said it was taking too long for claims to be processed.
Police and immigration officials said a 41-year-old man had been found unconscious in a shower cubicle at Villawood early this morning.
“The detainee attempted self-harm,” a NSW police spokesman said.
“Staff and ambulance officers attempted to revive the man and he was taken to Liverpool Hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later.”
The spokesman said police were treating the death as “non-suspicious”.
Refugee advocate Sara Nathan named the man as father of three Ahmad Obeid Al Eqabi, who she said had committed suicide after having his claim for asylum twice rejected by the Department of Immigration.
Ms Nathan said the man had arrived by boat last year and was detained at Christmas Island before being transferred to Villawood in April.
“He hung himself because he feared he would be killed if he returned to Iraq,” she said.
“Why is it taking over a year for claims to be processed? It is costing taxpayers' dollars to keep people in detention ... these long periods should cease.”
There are currently 164 irregular maritime arrivals at Villawood, a centre that holds 314 detainees in total, which includes overstays.
Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said up to 100 refugees were today on hunger strike at Villawood following Mr Al Eqabi's death.
An Iranian inmate at Villawood, Mosan Manoucheripour, also said a lot of people were grieving and would begin protests.
“We start to do the hunger strike for showing my protest against the act of Immigration, and we want to mourn for this man who died,” he told ABC radio earlier.
Mr Manoucheripour said about 30 detainees had gathered to listen to the Koran.
“They are very very upset and confused and they couldn't sleep, they want to be awake until morning and they want to start the hunger strike,” he said.
However the Department of Immigration said the situation at the facility was “calm” and they had not noticed anything out of the ordinary.
“There were no significant numbers of people not consuming breakfast this morning,” a departmental spokesman said.
“While staff are saddened with two deaths in recent months the important task is to ensure the welfare of the department's clients ... that is the first priority.”
Mr Rintoul said a full inquiry was needed into the Mr Al Eqabi's death.
“The factories of mental illness have claimed yet another victim,” he said in a statement.
“Incidents of self-harm are becoming daily occurrences at detention centres across the country.”
Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said detention has a “devastating” impact on the mental health of asylum seekers.
“What we've seen overnight was a man who was so desperate and so sickened by his detention that he's taken his own life,” she told reporters in Canberra.
“It's a very, very sad event and I hope that the government quickly reviews the way that they're managing the system.
“We really need a total overhaul of the immigration detention system.”
Three groups of asylum-seekers, including Chinese and Sri Lankan Tamils, staged rooftop protests at Villawood in September after Mr Rauluni, 36, leapt to his death from a roof ahead of his deportation.
This year there have been 119 boat arrivals carrying a total of 5693 passengers and 296 crew.
There are currently 2920 irregular maritime arrivals detained on Christmas Island and 2677 in mainland facilities including the Villawood detention centre.

[RAP: RAP wonders if the Coalition will be celebrating this latest tragedy as it seems to fit with their anything to "stop the boats" message. And with this, more of Australia's humanitarian vote is turning Green.]

No comments:

Post a Comment