Darwin detention centre ‘a humanitarian disaster’, says refugee group

October 23, 2011
Sydney rally for refugee rights, October 15. Photo: Peter Boyle.

The Darwin Asylum Seekers Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) released the statement below on October 23.

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The Darwin Asylum Seekers Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) today called on the federal government to learn from the humanitarian disaster that is the Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC) and abandon its plans to open a new 1500 bed detention centre at Wickham Point, 35 kilometres south-east of Darwin.

“The Northern Immigration Detention Centre is a disaster on our doorstep, where suicide attempts, incidents of self harm and mental illness are rife” said DASSAN spokesperson Rohan Thwaites.

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“Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) statistics show an alarmingly high rate of reported self harm incidents in the centre and recent months have seen a continued escalation in the number of attempted suicides and self-harm incidents, including a number of hangings, detainees sewing their lips together and people burying themselves in mock graves for extended periods of time.”

“Wickham Point will only exacerbate these problems,” said Thwaites.

“The site for the Wickham Point Detention Centre has been found to be not fit for human habitation due to a severe and unbearable insect problem and is no place to be sending vulnerable people, some of whom will spend years in detention.”

DASSAN volunteers regularly meet asylum seekers inside NIDC who have been irreparably damaged by mandatory detention and are on medication for mental illnesses.

“The comparatively remote location of the Wickham Point Detention Centre will make it harder for community members to visit asylum seekers in the centre and provide them with much needed support and contact with the outside world.”

Thwaites added: “DIAC is spending over $70 million to lease the land for the Wickham Point Detention Centre, it would be much cheaper and more humane for the government to move all asylum seekers into community detention.

“DASSAN calls on the government to recognise that detention centres are inhumane and a waste of taxpayer money by abandoning the construction of Wickham Point and closing the NIDC.”

DASSAN will hold a community rally calling for an end to mandatory detention at 12:30 pm on Wednesday October 26 outside DIAC’s Darwin office, 40 Cavenagh St, Darwin.

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