The war on pregnant asylum seekers intensifies

The conditions for pregnant women in Wickham Point Immigration Detention Centre (WPIDC) are even worse than the those at the DAL.

  • Women report that they are constantly hungry because of lack of food
  • They tell of meals of boiled chicken and rice day after day
  • They have to wait in food queues in the heat for one to two hours to be served.
  • Women who feel faint and ask for permission to sit are told that this is not permitted unless they have a “script” from the doctor otherwise they must wait in the queue like everyone else.
  • All people including the women are allowed one piece of fruit each day, two sometimes depending on which guard is on duty
  • Their rooms are searched with cameras and they get into trouble if they are found with food or fruit in their rooms.
  • Guards walk in without knocking at any time once in the night and again in the early morning to count them- “welfare check”
  • The women are constantly told by some staff that they should not be pregnant because they have no future in this country and will have to go back.
  • Children are only allowed to eat in the dining room at meal times.
  • Parents are not allowed to take food out of the dining room even if the children can’t eat at the appointed times.
  • They are allowed one packet of noodles per day for a snack.
  • Teenagers aged over 18 years are separated from their families and taken to Berrimah House which is part of the infamous NIDC.
  • I am told by people from a range of backgrounds that the Vietnamese people in particular are treated very badly ” even worse than us”.
  • Pregnant Vietnamese women are constantly harassed about being pregnant and threatened with being interviewed by the Vietnamese military police.

I went to Wickham Point for a few hours in 2012. I waited 3 hours before i was allowed in to visit. I came home with bites and welts which lasted 3 weeks. The sandflies and mosquitoes are so bad that the Japanese Gas company next door refused to house their workers on site. WPIDC is a purpose built prison camp an hour out of Darwin in an isolated swamp location. It has electric fences, airlocks multiple gates and extremely unfriendly guards.

An unfunny thing happened two days before the election….

We received word from Christmas Island that 50 pregnant women were to be forcibly separated from their husbands and children and transferred to Darwin for the duration of their pregnancy. We checked other sources – all concurred that this was true and not a baseless rumor. The then Ministers office was contacted and asked if they knew of this latest policy.
A spokesperson said no and would get back to us. Some hours later to our immense relief we heard from other sources that this transfer of 50 pregnant women would not proceed.

We then found out that some women had already been separated- wives in Darwin – husbands and children on Christmas Island. This was remedied a few days later under orders from the previous Minister.

What is really distressing is how, who, why anyone would think that it was morally, humanely justified in separating families in this way at this time.
Whoever was in charge on Christmas Island and Canberra making this brutal decision, maybe now implementing the pregnant women to Nauru policy under this new minister which may see babies struggle to survive in 50 degree heat in communal tents in a camp with no running water.
Australia where is your heart?

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