These stories are tragic and reflect the almost inevitable result of privatising detention centres; costs and corners are cut. ABC reports today:
Detainees at Sydney’s Villawood detention centre say an inadequate response from guards forced them to use a cigarette lighter to try to save the life of a man who had attempted suicide.
Detainees say they tried to burn through the rope 41-year-old Ahmed Al Akabi had used to take his own life.
They say they have borne witness to a string of suicides at the centre in the past year, including that of Iraqi-born teacher Mr Akabi.
The detainees, mostly of Kurdish origin, relayed numerous concerns over their indefinite detention, with several afflicted by illnesses related to stress and depression.
Tensions at the centre came to a head last month when riot police were called in during a night of rioting that saw several buildings destroyed by fire.
One of the men who found Mr Akabi says guards employed by Villawood’s privately owned operator, Serco, were ill-equipped and not adequately trained to respond appropriately to the suicide attempt.
The man says the guards did not have a sharp instrument available to cut Mr Akabi down and did not know how to respond.
The detainee, who did not want to be identified, says he and others tried to hold Mr Akabi aloft in a bid to save him from suffocation until help arrived.
He says they were forced to use the cigarette lighter to try to save the father of three, but were too late; he was pronounced dead a short time later.
Serco declined to comment on specific allegations, but in a statement to the ABC said it runs a comprehensive staff training program that goes beyond its contractual obligations.
“Serco is committed to doing everything we can to prevent those in our care from coming to harm,” the statement said.
“Our staff take this commitment extremely seriously and work hard to keep those in our care safe and secure.”
A spokesman for the Immigration Department told the ABC that no comment could be made about the incident while a coronial inquiry was ongoing.
The coronial inquiry into Mr Akabi’s death is due to be held from June 27 until July 1, but the findings will not be released publicly because it was a suicide.
Mr Akabi is understood to have fled Iraq after death threats from the feared Shiite militia commanded by anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.