Friday, October 15, 2010

Detention centre tours reveal deteriorating conditions for detainees

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.

Amnesty 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.

“Morale within Australia’s detention facilities is quickly getting worse, leading to rising incidences of self-harm and attempted suicide,” said Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Campaign Coordinator for Amnesty International Australia.

“The mood on Christmas Island is particularly despondent. While meeting with asylum seekers there last week, I met grown men who were reduced to tears within minutes and who showed me scars from where they had been harming themselves. These are blatant symptoms of a system that is failing the people it is supposed to protect.”

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.

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.

“The Gillard Government needs to urgently move to a more sustainable means of processing asylum applications on the Australian mainland,” said Graham Thom.

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.

Graham Thom will be meeting with Chris Bowen on Monday the 18th of October. Dr Thom will be discussing the deteriorating conditions in Australia’s detention centres and presenting the 20,000 petitions signed by Australians against the Federal Government’s discriminatory policies towards asylum seekers.

A comprehensive report detailing the findings from the recent detention centre tours will be made available on Amnesty’s website over the coming weeks.

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