Protests, attempted suicides shake Darwin detention centre

September 6, 2011
World refugee day rally. Sydney, June 19. Photo: Peter Boyle

The Refugee Action Collective Sydney released the statement below on September 6.

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Frustration is again boiling over in the Darwin detention centre. There have been six attempted suicides in the last two days — five on Monday, and one on Tuesday.

Yesterday, Tuesday, fellow asylum seekers followed one man onto the roof of one of the compounds and physically prevented him from attempting to hang himself.

There have been reports of up to 15 attempted suicide and self harm attempts a day in the past few days.

Meanwhile, increasing numbers of asylum seekers in the detention centre have been holding one hour warning protests over the past three days.

The protests have grown from 30 to around 55. More are expected to join today, when another protest will take place today (Wednesday) between 12.00 and 1.00pm.

The tensions and protests are focused on the long delays for answers or for hearing dates for appeals.

Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, said: “The arbitrary processing arrangements are fuelling the frustrations. The asylum seekers are warning there will be a major protest in the detention centres unless the issues with long term detention are addressed.

“There are similar hunger strike protests and horrendous levels of self harm happening in Curtin.

“Five people got visas this week, but they are people who have been in detention only a few months. Others waiting between one and two years are being left in limbo.

“The Malaysia agreement is not the only way the Labor government is abusing the rights of asylum seekers. While political attention has been focused on the High Court and the Malaysia agreement, mandatory detention continues to takes its toll in the detention centres.

“The government has the opportunity to re-assess its entire detention regime.

“There are still around 6000 asylum seekers in detention. They should be immediately released so they can live in the community while their claims are being processed."

One Darwin asylum seeker told the Refugee Action Coalition: “Everyone in here is very upset. No one is thinking straight any more. People are waiting for months — for nothing.

“There are no answers. No-one can tell us what is happening.”

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