More wrongful detentions revealed


Sarah Stephen, Sydney

It seems that Cornelia Rau's 10-month ordeal is not the only case of mistaken detention. On February 14, the Murdoch press reported that Mohamadou Sacko, a French tourist of Malian origin, had arrived in Sydney on August 31 and immigration officials took him directly to Villawood detention centre on suspicion that his passport was fake. The photo in the passport had a scratch on it.

Sacko was asked to sing the French national anthem to prove his nationality. Immigration officials did not contact the French embassy as they'd promised, so Sacko was left to make contact himself. He spent four days in detention before the embassy confirmed that he was a French citizen. Sacko decided to sue the Australian government for wrongful detention, and reportedly won $25,000 in compensation.

"The wrongful detention of Sacko is not an isolated incident", said Greens Senator Kerry Nettle in a February 15 media release. "The Greens are concerned that there is a 'lock up first ask questions later' culture running through the department.

"My office has been told about a recent case where a Korean woman, who was visiting her boyfriend at a Victorian fruit farm, was wrongly detained by immigration officials, flown to Baxter detention centre in South Australia and kept in detention for over a week before their mistake was realised."

From Green Left Weekly, February 23, 2005.
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