Darwin asylum seeker in court

August 18, 2011

A Rohingyan Burmese asylum seeker faced Darwin Magistrates court on August 15, charged with assaulting a Serco employee at the Nothern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC) early on August 12. Serco is the private prison corporation that runs Australia’s immigration jails.

The refugee was involved, with two others, in a two-hour peaceful protest earlier that night.

He has been in detention for 21 months. The immigration department has granted him refugee status, but for more than a year he has been waiting for an ASIO security clearance.

They voluntarily ended their protest after midnight and returned to their rooms, where the alleged struggle with Serco staff happened. In defending the assault charge, the refugee’s lawyer said his client was injured by Serco staff, ABC Online reported on August 15.

The magistrate for the case included in the bail conditions that the refugee not be removed from Darwin. Some other asylum seekers who have faced court in the NT have been moved interstate, but the decision means the Rohingyan man can stay where he has friends and support.

Magistrate Daynor Trigg noted “the asylum seeker must be angry and frustrated about having been detained for 21 months … despite being granted refugee status more than a year ago,” ABC Online said.

The man was subsequently removed from prison and is in back in detention while his lawyers prepare his case.

On August 11, the ABC’s Lateline revealed a scathing report by the government’s workplace safety agency, Comcare, on conditions in immigration centres.

The report found systematic under-training of Serco staff, leaving them unprepared to “deal with the constant threat of violence, protests and self-harm,” Lateline said.

The report was “scathing about the overcrowding issues” inside detention centres. It also found that, “once inside the detention centre the latest arrivals face a system that places them and their guards in danger,” the ABC said on August 12.

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