HRA media release: The frontiers are ugly, violence and deaths on the horizon

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. Violence on the horizon.

The Human Rights Alliance is calling for a Senate Inquiry into the treatment of our Asylum Seekers. We are also calling for demarcated Investigators to enter Detention Centre facilities and inspect and report in the public interest on the condition of our Asylum Seekers, on whether there are adequate medical and psychological attention, and to report the extent of self harm and attempted suicides.

We are concerned by the rise of the phenomena of Detention Centre Deaths and 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. We are concerned about the effects upon the more than one thousand children and upon young adolescents. We are concerned that many children are falling victim to clinical disorders, behavioural disorders, mental trauma both acute and chronic, and to physical ill health, both acute and chronic.

Demarcated independent reporting may assist in the development of culpability and liability, and expedite their assessment before the Australian and International Courts and Tribunals.

The HRA is concerned as to what promises are being made by DIAC to Asylum Seekers who protest, go on hunger strikes, who exercise their human right to conscientious objection and civil disobedience. The HRA is concerned as to whether these promises will be fulfilled. These promises by DIAC need to be reported and independently monitored as to minimise future tensions.

"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, self harm, suicide attempts and suicide at the remote Curtin Detention Centre, protests and deaths at Darwin and Villawood Detention Centres, and to teargas and bean-bag bullets being fired upon Asylum Seekers detained at Christmas Island Detention Centre and 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. Immediate bona fide inquiries into the deaths of the Afghani youths who have died this year at Scherger and Curtin Detention Centres must take place. Similarly the four Detention Centre Deaths during 2010 must be adequately reviewed and investigated. These poor souls' deaths may be found to have been the result of Australia's harsh and illegal mandatory detention policies and Australia's subsequent labourious and untimely handling of refugee visa applications. The Commonwealth maybe culpable and therefore liable to these people's families and to all our Asylum Seekers."

"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."

"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, historical and contemporary."

"If we do not act promptly in working expeditiously and humanely with our Asylum Seekers, and with the evident background for increasing self harm, mental despair, suicides, protests and hunger strikes, we will endure unbeknown tragedies and violence and deaths on our horizons. The Commonwealth Government must heed of the warning signs and recent tensions and events. TPVs and deporting people are not answers and will not escalate the violence and deaths that no one wants."

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.

Gerry Georgatos, Convener of The Human Rights Alliance and PhD in Law researcher in Australian Deaths in Custody.

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