Child suicide attempts in Darwin Immigration centre
Courtesy of The Stringer - http://thestringer.com.au/child-suicide-attempts-in-darwin-immigration-c...
Evidence has been obtained of suicide attempts and self-harming by children in Darwin Airport Lodge immigration detention centre. The document (attached) has been obtained by the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) and reveals several disturbing cases of self-harming.
The child harming involves children as young as nine years old.
ChilOut, a national advocacy group for children in immigration detention, has been calling upon the Ministry for Immigration and Citizenship to release all the children in the Darwin Lodge and in fact from all immigration detention facilities.
The document contains details of incidents that occurred since late 2010 to November 2011 and as it took the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) more than nine months to release the documents after DASSAN lawyers pursued this by lodging an application for the information.
ChilOut spokesperson Leila Druery said that it is important to acknowledge this document refers to incidents of self-harming “from one detention over a short period.”
“These cases are not isolated. More children are suffering the same psychological side effects as a result of detention in other facilities – we just do not officially know the numbers,” said Ms Druery.
She said that these incidents impute systemic problems in immigration detention. Ms Druery said that the onus that the Minister of Immigration carries as the sole person who ascertains whether his own department is acting in the best interests of the children is a very dangerous predicament.
“There is no enforceable independent oversight,” said Ms Druery.
“This is obviously a conflict of interest.”
“We would like to see the issue of detaining children depoliticised, by giving an independent children’s commissioner an oversight and guardianship role.”
ChilOut is concerned for the welfare of children currently detained offshore on Manus Island. Ms Druery describes adults and children having to deal with sleep deprivation, that facilities and services are inadequate and that there is overcrowding in tents. Malaria is a risk.
Ms Druery is concerned for children who witness adults self-harming and attempting suicide.
“These children are seeing things no child – or adult for that matter – should ever have to see. Children are extremely vulnerable and impressionable; our worst fear is that they’ll see acts of self-harm and suicide attempts and think – that’s an option for them. We know this worst fear is already being realised, in Darwin and other places.”
ChilOut is calling for an independent and urgent review of all facilities to identify children at risk of harm and release those children into the community.
Last November, Chilout and the Human Rights Alliance exposed suicide attempts by children at Darwin Airport Lodge.
Detention facilities are bursting at the seams with families, children and heavily pregnant mothers flown in from Christmas Island to Darwin and offshore facilities. The Human Rights Alliance warned the situation is a tinderbox.
Children are seeing many people with bandages around their necks and wrists. Blood is splattered on walls from people cutting themselves.
In November a 17-year-old boy cut his throat in an attempt at suicide.
At the time the Human Rights Alliance stated, “Communications coming out of Darwin Airport Lodge describe horrific circumstances in which children are being caught up in.”
“Young children are among the most vulnerable. If they languish in prison-like detention … their despair leads to multiple traumas and for some to suicide. We are hearing reports of children attempting suicide.”
http://g.virbcdn.com/_f2/files/dc/FileItem-280027-FOIDocuments.pdf - Link to the document evidencing child ‘self-harms’ at the Darwin Immigration facility.
Asylum seekers are being told they will be sent to Nauru if they speak out.
ChilOut echoed recent calls by the Australian Medical Association (NT branch) for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek to visit Darwin.
Ms Druery said, “They should see for themselves what’s happening. Both are parents of young children and should not accept any child being exposed to these horrors.”
DIAC currently classifies many incidences as self-harm and self-injury rather than attempted suicide. That’s why advocates say the numbers are deceptively low.
Ms Druery states, “Until suicides are properly classified we can’t get a clear picture. We need the truth, not deception. Children’s lives are at risk.”
“If things don’t change it’s only a matter of time before a child dies. Children should simply not be in these horrendous environments.”
The alarm bells have been ringing for quite some time however children continue to be incarcerated in conditions damaging to their development. Last year doctors warned of the predicament and called for the release of the children. One doctor in particular leaked information corroborating suicide attempts and self-harming by children at Darwin Immigration.
The doctor who worked at the centre said that there was on average one suicide attempt per week – this is in line with documentation leaked to the Human Rights Alliance last year from Christmas Island Immigration about horrific high rates of self-harming and high numbers of people on suicide watch.
The doctor said, “They say ‘I can’t sleep, I am depressed, I cannot find the strength to keep on going,’ and there are those, many of them, who ask me to help them end their life.”
The doctor, who has worked at the centre, says there is a communal sense of helplessness among inmates.
He said that after six months of detainment many of them were breaking down and self-harming. He described meltdowns into acute depression and psychoses.
“More and more Asylum Seekers are going to Royal Darwin hospital for injuries and fatigue and who are now being diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses. They may present with physical injuries but the cause is mental breakdown.”
“There will eventually be a child suicide in immigration custody. Then what?”