The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released the statement below on July 24.
“The growing crisis in Australia’s detention centre shows the government must reconsider its detention policy and pursue more humane approaches to asylum seekers as a matter of urgency”, Carl O’Connor from the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network said today.
His comments came as 10 refugees from Iran and Afghanistan staged a rooftop protest at Darwin’s Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC).
The men say more than 50 asylum seekers started a hunger strike inside the centre this morning. This follows reports of an Iraqi asylum seeker attempting suicide at the centre on July 20, and up to 100 men staging a hunger strike at the Scherger Immigration Detention Centre in Cape York.
“These are the desperate measures people take when placed in such uncertain, traumatic circumstances,” O’Connor said. “Apart from the numerous large protests at NIDC in the past month we have seen six suicide attempts, detainees overdose on medication and asylum seekers sewing their lips together.”
O’Connor said some of the refugees currently locked up have been granted refugee status and have been waiting close to two years for “security checks”.
The rooftop protest has occurred only days before the Minister for Immigration is expected to sign a deal with the Malaysian government to remove asylum seekers to that country.
“Rather than outsourcing its international obligations - to a country with a poor track record on human rights — the federal government must take immediate steps to quell the crisis brewing in detention centres here.
“A shift in policy that sees refugees housed in the community - with appropriate support and services — rather than locked up in expensive, cruel and unnecessary detention centres in the only way to end the self-harm and protests we’re now seeing on an almost daily basis at NIDC and elsewhere.”