Detention Centres at Crisis Point – more deaths will come, we are visiting.

The Human Rights Alliance Media Release:

Urgent Action Required to Stop Detention Centre Deaths in Custody and the rise of mental illnesses. DETENTION CENTRES AT CRISIS POINT.

The Human Rights Alliance is calling for a Senate Inquiry into Asylum Seekers Immigration Deaths in Custody and in the brutal rise of self harm, suicide attempts and in the development of mental illnesses amongst our near seven thousand Asylum Seekers currently in Mandatory Detention.

The Villawood Detention Centre crisis with detainees protesting on the roof, with fires reminiscent of Christmas Island, sadly indict an inhumanity imposed upon these people by the Commonwealth. We understand that other Detention Centres are at crisis point and people detained feel they can no longer cope. 60 of us are visiting the remote Curtin Detention Centre this week and we know that many detainees at Curtin are despairing.

Villawood in Flames 21 Apr 2011 - Photograph: Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images

“We maintain daily contact with detainees at Curtin, Leonora, Banksia, Perth detention centres and we have been made aware of the increasing mental despair, of daily suicide attempts. It appears there is a culture of silence and secrecy by the authorities breached only by the messages from the detainees and by the suicides. The authorities must disclose the number of suicide attempts. The Commonwealth cannot allow this horrific situation to continue.”

60 human rights advocates under the banner of the Refugees Rights Action Network are travelling to Curtin Detention Centre to visit our desperate Asylum Seekers, April 21 to 26. Many Curtin detainees are waiting for us. They are desperate for us to arrive and express their pain, suffering, their unending ordeal. Even though most of the visitors, including us, will arrive from Perth by bus, it is a national action with others coming from Victoria and NSW.

“The Commonwealth is creating a tragic phenomena The concentration like camps and prisons that are mandatory detention centres staffed by unqualified personnel, and the squalid conditions, are developing a fora of mental unwellness. These centres are inducing trauma, multiple trauma, self harm, suicide and multiple suicide attempts, clinical disorders both acute and chronic. These centres are damaging and killing people. Therefore the Commonwealth is killing people. These people arrive distressed from acute trauma and are then mentally tortured in this strict confinement often described by detainees as worse than prisons. Have we learned nothing from the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and its 339 recommendations? Unbelievably it was 1992 that the Australian Labor Party in breach of UN Conventions introduced mandatory detention.” Gerry Georgatos, PhD (Law) Researcher into Australian Deaths in Custody, and Convener of the Human Rights Alliance.

Nearly seven thousand Asylum Seekers are being mandatorily detained for prolonged, and indefinite, periods in Australian detention. This is a breach of UN Conventions and the denial of a suite of human and legal rights to our Asylum Seekers. This unnecessary detention of people in overcrowded conditions, in facilities which are like prisons has led to protests and hunger strikes at the remote Curtin Detention Centre, protests and deaths at Darwin and Villawood Detention Centres, and to teargas being fired upon detainees at Christmas Island Detention Centre and now once again at Villawood. Unless the Commonwealth acts promptly with due regard to the rights of our Asylum Seekers we believe that there will be en masse riots, unnecessary suffering and trauma, and the loss of further lives.

The incidents of self harm are on the rise and pervasively may reach endemic proportions. Detainees are breaking down physically and mentally.

“Australia has one of the world’s worst deaths in custody records. An immediate bona fide inquiry into the death of the young Afghani man at Scherger must take place. This poor man’s deaths may be found to have been the result of Australia’s harsh and illegal mandatory detention policies and its subsequent labourious and untimely handling of refugee visa applications. The Commonwealth maybe culpable and therefore liable to this young man’s family and to all our Asylum Seekers.” Gerry Georgatos, PhD (Law) researcher in Australian Deaths in Custody.

“To ensure fairness and a civil and just society, and to expedite the journey for the elimination of discrimination and racism, and remove the pall of dark aspersions we must build an Inspectorate that can expeditiously investigage all complaints and matters relating to Australian Immigration Detention. By so doing we could possibly end indefinite mandatory detention.” Gerry Georgatos, PhD (Law) researcher in Australian Deaths in Custody.

“It is appalling that the Commonwealth continues to detain a small number of people, several thousand, in overcrowded conditions at great expense to the nation and by so doing has created a false perception that we have a flood of Asylum Seekers when we have less than a trickle. The Commonwealth’s handling of our Asylum Seekers and their illegal creation of mandatory detention, which the Labor Party began in 1992 has given further cause to the enshrining of discrimination and racism.” Gerry Georgatos, PhD (Law) researcher in Australian Deaths in Custody.

“If we do not act promptly in response to the unnecessary deaths of two young men, one 19 and the other 20, at Curtin and Scherger Detention Centres, then we will have more deaths. If we do not act promptly to working with our Asylum Seekers in lieu of the Christmas Island and Villawood crises and the evident despair at Curtin we will endure unbeknown tragedies.” Gerry Georgatos, PhD (Law) researcher in Australian Deaths in Custody.

The Human Rights Alliance calls for urgent Senate Inquiries. The Human Rights Alliance calls upon the Commonwealth and upon the Liberal Party to revisit their discriminatory and inhumane Asylum Seekers policies. The Human Rights Alliance calls upon the Greens to demonstrate greater resolve than they thus far have shown to end mandatory detention and hence to save people from unwarranted suffering and from the risk of self harming and dying in Australian Immigration Custody. THE HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE Gerry Georgatos, Convener of The Human Rights Alliance

Working towards a Better Future

We acknowledge and respect the traditional custodians whose ancestral lands we are now part of. We acknowledge and remember the horrific atrocities inflicted upon them. This is and will forever be their land.

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