Investigation needed

Australia’s asylum seeker issues are making headlines in the UK. This is from today’s Independent:

“Australia’s treatment of asylum-seekers is under scrutiny again after revelations about a three-year-old girl who suffered serious mental health problems after spending her life in mandatory detention. Professional advice that Naomi Leong, a Malaysian child, should be allowed out to visit a playgroup for two hours once a week has gone unheeded.”

And this from today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

“The Federal Government transferred two suicidal Baxter detainees to a psychiatric hospital shortly before a court decision that would have compelled them to do so. In a damning judgement, the Federal Court found yesterday the Government had breached its duty of care in failing to provide adequate psychiatric care for the two Iranians held in the detention centre in South Australia. The court also found that the Government’s conduct “contributed to the progressive deterioration of the applicants” and that it “continued to commit itself to treatment plans that may have been exacerbating, or else inadequately or inappropriately treating” their conditions.”

(Margo Kingston explains what the political ramifications SHOULD be of this court ruling.)

Some are now calling for a Royal Commission into issues related to refugees and detention. In light of ABC TV’s Lateline discovering that as many as 100 individuals may have been wrongly detained over the last three years, surely we owe it to asylum seekers and mental health cases to discover the result of ongoing harsh refugee policy?

Equally important is an examination of the Howard government’s decision to privatise detention centres. When ACM, a subsidiary of the American Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, used to run our centres, accountability was virtually non-existent and profits skyrocketed. Conditions at the centres were frequently unacceptable. For more information of why these services should not be privatised, read this ABC Background Briefing report from 2004:

“Richard Harding [the Inspector of Custodial Services in Western Australia]: It shows that without proper supervision or care from DIMIA [Immigration Department], ACM did indeed develop its very own culture of indifference and worse than indifference, in fact virtually all of the riots that we’ve seen film and video of over the years, shows not riot control so much as riot provocation behaviour by the on-site operators, ACM. But you always come back to the fact that this is being allowed to happen by the persons with the responsibility in international law, in duty of care terms, in political terms, for running a decent operation. DIMIA and ultimately the Minister and the Federal government.”

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