From this morning’s ABC AM:
TONY EASTLEY: A police investigation will continue today into the death of a Fijian man at the Villawood Immigration detention centre in Sydney.
The 36-year-old, who jumped to his death yesterday morning, was due to be deported back to Fiji.
Overnight, tensions remained high at the centre when a group of 11 inmates continued a protest on the roof and threatened to jump if their cases were not reviewed.
The Australian of the Year and mental health expert Professor Patrick McGorry says the incident highlights the need for a complete overhaul of immigration detention policies.
Lindy Kerin reports.
LINDY KERIN: In a letter obtained by the ABC, 36-year-old Josefa Rauluni said he’d rather die than be forced to return to Fiji. Just hours before he was to be deported from Australia, he jumped from the roof of the Villawood detention centre.
Refugee advocate Brami Jegan has spoken with some of the inmates who witnessed the man’s death.
BRAMI JEGAN: Well the first person I spoke to, he was a babbling mess and just ended up crying and wasn’t able to say anything other than “I saw it, I saw it, I saw it” and just kept bawling his eyes out. The second time I called, and it was a different person, as soon as he heard my voice he started sobbing and saying “he’s dead, he’s dead, why are they doing this to us?”
LINDY KERIN: Brami Jegan had been out a Villawood the day before the man’s death and had spoken to detainees from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Iraq. She says tensions were already high.
BRAMI JEGAN: Apparently they’d had a visit from an immigration official earlier in the week who’d said that, given that the situation in countries – and he’d named a few countries – was getting better, or was better, they could expect that some of them or more of them could be sent home and this had kept them in a real heightened state of anxiety.
You know, two of the guys from Afghanistan that we, our group, met with, they were just bawling their eyes out because they were so upset and scared. And I think that’s kind of the mood that then, kind of escalated when they saw this, this young man die.
The Immigration Department’s spokesman, Sandi Logan says staff and inmates who witnessed the man’s death have been offered counselling.
SANDI LOGAN: We have provided, for the detainees, counselling assistance. We have on staff, of course, health professionals through the health services provider, including trauma and torture counselling.
LINDY KERIN: Louise Newman is a Professor of Psychiatry at the Monash University and the head of the Immigration Detention Advisory Group.
Professor Newman says in some cases, inmates displaying mental health issues should be given help outside the detention centre.
LOUISE NEWMAN: Particularly where self-harming behaviour and serious suicidal behaviour might occur, to not need to be in immigration detention centres; they should be removed to mental health facilities.
LINDY KERIN: Throughout the night a group of asylum seekers at the centre continued their rooftop protest. They raised a white bedsheet painted with the words, “we need help and freedom”.
They’re demanding to see officials from the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).