‘A cage lined with silk is still a cage’ – detained Iranian refugee

Villawood Death in Custody Demands Ministerial Action

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission says the Villawood Dentention Centre should be demolished. (File photo) (AAP: Mick Tsikas)

The tragic death of a 62 year old Iranian immigration detainee is yet another disgraceful and entirely preventable cost of the ongoing mandatory detention policy” said Pamela Curr, of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC).

“Mr F was taken to St Georges Hospital on Friday for an appointment. There he suffered a heart attack and collapsed on the steps of the hospital as he struggled to walk-in. He died in Intensive Care today, Sunday.

Detainees in Villawood have been requesting care for this man who was held in Stage 3. Fellow detainees say that he had to walk 100 metres uphill to the dining room using an umbrella to assist him to walk. Often too exhausted to eat. Only last week fellow detainees sought improved medical care for sick detainees,” Ms Curr reported.

“Mr F. continued to be detained at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) even after it was acknowledged that his condition was so serious that he could not fly making deportation impossible. How then could the Department of Immigration continue to detain such a frail and vulnerable individual in the Villawood Prison instead of releasing him to be cared for in the community?” asked Mr Singh.

“Mr F’s death in custody is yet more horrific evidence of the lethal human cost of mandatory detention. Since December 2000 there have been at least 18 deaths in all forms of immigration detention in Australia and Nauru. This represents a seventeen hundred percent increase in immigration detention deaths when compared to the period 1991-2000. Villawood IDC is ‘managed’ for profit by GSL Limited, a multinational prison and detention corporation with a long history of deaths in custody in their prisons.” said Charandev Singh, volunteer human rights advocate at the Brimbank Melton Community Legal Centre.

It is critical that Immigration Minister Chris Evans accepts the first recommendation of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner Graham Innes who said unequivocally that “Australia’s mandatory detention laws should be repealed”.

This is the chance for the Rudd Government to break with this history of death, abuse and scandal that is integral to the mandatory detention policy.” concluded Ms Curr.

PRESS RELEASE DATED 13 JANUARY 2008

The latest HREOC* report on detention was released in early January 2008. Commissioner Graham Innes has shown the sort of moral courage we have yearned for over the last decade and headed the list of recommendations with HREOC’s first recommendation “Australia’s mandatory detention laws should be repealed” says it all.

Remember when we all called for this and were regarded as looney lefties, latte sipping elites, bleeding hearts and generally Traitors to the nation- ah well !!! Thank you and bless you Grahame Innes. Government detention monitoring bodies have not been known for their adherence to a past Australian tradition of calling a spade -a bloody shovel!!

As an Iranian detainee said to us in 2004 “a cage lined with silk is still a cage”. Commissioner Innes is to be congratulated for his moral courage in standing by this first recommendation. For a country with claims to being a free democracy to arbitrarily imprison innocent people without charge for possibly their whole lives is an outrage which no political spin meister can gloss over.

Unfortunately HREOC did not have the latest information on Mental health in Detention which saw a suicidal man turfed out of hospital the week before Christmas, back to the detention which made him sick in the first place. Inexplicably DIAC** staff handed this man 6 days supply of drugs. During the lonely hours of darkness on the first night back, he took the lot. This is the absymal standard of care in detention.

Also DIAC and GSL*** forgot to draw attention to a stateless man who has been in Villawood detention for 3 years despite the fact that he is severely mentally ill- too ill in fact to even represent himself. He has a NSW guardianship officer overseeing his continued detention and lack of care.

The Summary of Observations following the Inspection of Mainland Immigration Detention Facilities in 2007 can be found online at www.humanrights.gov.au/human_rights/idc

It would be great if the papers were inundated with letters supporting the HREOC findings – they might then publish a few and ensure that this report gets due care and attention.

Pamela Curr
Campaign Coordinator
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre ASRC
12 Batman St West Melbourne 3003 ph 03 93266066 fax 03 93265199 www.asrc.org.au Pamela Curr
Legend as follows
*HREOC has only recommendatory powers – NO one can over-rule Immigration Dept decisions.

**DIAC is the latest acronym for the Immigration Department- it follows DIMA and then DIMIA. DIAC stands for Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Initially it was DIC which was unfortunate so they broke the convention and added an A.

***GSL is Global Solutions Limited which is a subsidiary of Group 4 Falck although they keep buying and selling each other on the New York Stock Exchange.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Pamela Curr Asylum Seekers Resource Centre: 0417 517 075

Charandev Singh Brimbank Melton Community Legal Centre: 0403 659 431

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