Amnesty Warning on Asylum Seekers
14 October 2010 at 2:26 pm
Amnesty International has warned that detention conditions on Christmas Island are deteriorating rapidly and asylum seekers there, as well as in other detention centres around the country, are at grave risk of self-harm and mental illness.
An Amnesty International delegation has just returned from an inspection tour of Christmas Island, the Curtin detention centre in Western Australia, and detention facilities in Darwin.
Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Campaign Coordinator for Amnesty International Australia says morale within Australia’s detention facilities is quickly getting worse, leading to rising incidences of self-harm and attempted suicide.
Dr Thom says the mood on Christmas Island is particularly despondent with grown men he met reduced to tears and showing blatant symptoms of a system that is failing the people it is supposed to protect.
He says with some 5,000 asylum seekers now being held in unacceptable conditions in centres across Australia, Amnesty International is calling on the government to urgently rethink the policies of mandatory detention and offshore processing.
He says conditions on Christmas Island are especially worrying with more than 350 people are being detained in tent-style accommodation and additional facilities are hastily being erected to cope with new arrivals. Some asylum seekers have been detained on the remote island for over 16 months.
Amnesty says it is unacceptable that the government has let the situation deteriorate to the point where asylum seekers are self-harming.
It says the Australian Government has a legal responsibility not to arbitrarily detain asylum seekers, or to subject them to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Amnesty International does not believe current detention conditions are in keeping with this responsibility.
Dr Graham Thom says the Gillard Government needs to urgently move to a more sustainable means of processing asylum applications on the Australian mainland and the last thing Australia should be seeking to do is export the problem to countries such as East Timor, when it is clear that our government has so far been incapable of dealing with the situation humanely on its own territory.
Amnesty International believes that as a matter of priority, the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen, should immediately arrange appropriate community alternatives to detention for families with children, unaccompanied minors and survivors of torture and trauma.
From 2 – 9 October 2010 Amnesty International visited the Northern Immigration Detention Centre and the APODs (alternative places of detention) in Darwin, the Curtin Immigration Detention Centre, and detention facilities on Christmas Island.
The visit was organised in cooperation with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. While visiting the centres Amnesty International had the opportunity to meet with detained asylum seekers on both an individual and group basis. The organisation also met with staff and service providers.