Another day and another tragedy in Australia’s detention centres. It’s clearly too much for the media to investigate the role of the company that runs the places, Serco:
Detainees at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney are planning a hunger strike today after the suicide of an inmate.
It is the second suicide at the centre in just over two months.
A 41-year-old Iraqi man was found unconscious and taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead early this morning.
Other detainees at Villawood say the man had been in detention for about a year and had his claim for asylum refused.
They say he had asked to be sent back to Iraq to be with his wife and family.
An Iranian inmate at Villawood, Mosan Manoucheripour, says a lot of people are grieving.
“We start to do the hunger strike for showing my protest against the act of Immigration, and we want to mourn for this man who died,” he said.
Mr Manoucheripour says about 30 detainees have gathered to listen to the Koran.
“They are very very upset and confused and they couldn’t sleep, they want to be awake until morning and they want to start the hunger strike,” he said.
Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition says he hopes this latest incident will lead to change.
“The fact is that there have been suicides and deaths inside detention previously and we haven’t seen a lot of change, but at some point the Government will have [to change],” he said.
“The reality is we cannot keep presiding over the dysfunctional system that is mandatory detention.”
Mr Rintoul says detainees are also concerned about the speed of the response to the death.
“They’re pretty angry really because it took 45 minutes for the ambulance to come. There was some attempt to resuscitate him there, which according to eyewitnesses failed, but they took him to hospital anyway,” he said.
The New South Wales Ambulance Service says a crew got to Villawood 12 minutes after the triple-zero call, which was made by a member of staff at 12:21am (AEDT).
A spokesman for the immigration department, Sandi Logan says everything was done for the man and an ambulance was quickly called for.
“Every step was taken by the detention service’s staff when the man was discovered not breathing,” he said.
“CPR was commenced immediately, he was transferred shortly thereafter by ambulance to hospital but was unfortunately later pronounced dead.”
The Department of Immigration says the incident will now become the subject of a coronial inquiry.
In a story yesterday, Serco was mentioned in passing:
Overcrowding has been blamed for a violent brawl involving about 50 children at a Melbourne detention facility.
The Immigration Department does not call it a detention centre, but the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation facility in Broadmeadows is one of the sites the department uses to hold hundreds of unaccompanied children who are seeking asylum in Australia.
Last week there were 43 boys there, but another 98 were flown in from Christmas Island on the weekend.
On Sunday night tensions flared up and police were called in to stop what the department says was a series of scuffles involving 50 mostly Afghan detainees.
Refugee advocate Nicole Mousley, who visited the centre a week ago, says the brawl was probably the result of overcrowding.
“From what I saw, I don’t think that centre is equipped to deal with that many boys,” she said.
“The common room is not designed to hold that many people.
“The boys were telling me they were a bit concerned about the new people coming and weren’t sure what was going to happen once everybody got there.
“The boys actually told me they thought they would be kept separate from the new arrivals for a while.
“So if the new arrivals have been put in straight away and expected to share the common area, I think then maybe some of the boys who have been there previously have been a bit surprised by that.”
Immigration Department spokesman Sandi Logan says he is concerned by the situation.
“We are concerned about ensuring the centre remains in order, remains calm and that we are in control, which we are,” he said.
“These are all young men, all minors under the age of 18 who were involved in the disturbance. It was a series of scuffles. We believe focusing around access to computers, but we’ve still really to get to the bottom of that.”
Mr Logan says the capacity of the centre is 150 and he is confident it can comfortably house that many.
He denies there are inadequate facilities for the 136 boys now there.
“We are confident Serco, the detention services provider, is able to manage the accommodation and the good order of the centre,” he said.
“We’re also confident the expansion of the centre has been done appropriately with enough recreation facilities, enough opportunities for all of the detainees within the centre to have enough activity to keep them active, to keep them engaged.”
Ms Mousley says it is not appropriate to have Serco investigate an incident which happened under its own management.