Darwin: Refugee assault sparks protests

March 20, 2011

Nine refugees held in the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin staged a protest on top of a building in the centre’s compound on March 15 after they witnessed Serco guards assault another detainee.

The refugees — who are Rohingya people, an ethnic minority in western Burma — told refugee advocate Carl O’Connor on March 16 that the protest was sparked by a physical assault on another Rohingya detainee.

“One man was refused rice in the mess room,” the refugees said. “Out of frustration he broke a glass. He was then chased down and tried to escape from two Serco guards.

“When caught, he was held down by the throat, punched twice and kicked.”

They said they did not know the name of the guards who carried out the attack. But the refugees said the assaulted refugee was refused medical treatment. Instead, Serco staff told them “he was going to be placed in some form of solitary confinement”.

The incident prompted the other refugees to climb onto the roof. Their protest ended about midday the next day.

The immigration department denied that guards chased and assaulted the refugee, NT News said on March 17.

The Rohingya message said: “The Serco case manager for the man that was assaulted invited him to make a formal complaint to police regarding the assault but he declined to.”

The March 17 NT News reported that O’Connor “said the protest was not about food but about the ‘lack of attention’ being paid to their case.”

O’Connor said: “These men have all been found to be refugees by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and have spent an inordinate period of time in detention waiting for their ASIO security clearances.

“One asylum seeker was first interviewed by ASIO a month ago - 18 months after arriving in Australia.”

In Melbourne, a young man in Broadmeadows detention centre was refusing to come down from a tree on March 18.

In far north Queensland, at the Scherger detention centre, a 20-year-old Afghan man was found dead in his room. Immigration have so far refused to name the cause of this death.

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