Aaron Roden

The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released the statement below on May 23. * * * The private corporation that runs immigration detention centres, Serco, has recently insisted that Serco security guards watch over visitors and asylum seekers when members of the Darwin community visit the Darwin Airport Lodge.
An Iraqi Kurd in his 30s who had been in detention at Christmas Island for about 12 months, attempted suicide, the Australian said on November 23. This came just a week after the second suicide in two months at Villawood detention centre. About 20 fellow asylum seekers resorted to sewing their lips shut and 230 other detainees went on hunger strike in protest as “people felt that the Gillard government was ignoring their cases”.
The second suicide in little more than two months took place at Villawood detention centre on the night of November 15. Ahmad Al Akabi, 41, was found by fellow detainees hanged in a bathroom. After spending more than a year in the Christmas Island and Villawood detention centres, his asylum application had been rejected twice under the off-shore processing system that was found to be invalid in a recent High Court decision.
Carly Dawson is a volunteer with Peace Brigades International (PBI), a non-government organisation that “protects human rights and promotes nonviolent transformation of conflicts”. The organisation was formed during the 1980s and its first mission was to help counter the war in Nicaragua that was waged by US-backed Contras against the left-wing Sandinista government Dawson recently returned to Australia after 12 months volunteer work with PBI in Colombia. She spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Aaron Roden. * * *
A High Court decision concerning the Refugee Status Assessment (RSA) process may undermine the government's offshore processing system. On November 11, the court upheld a case put by two Tamil asylum seekers, who'd had their claims for asylum rejected. Known as M61 and M69, the Tamils put the case that they had been denied the right to challenge their rejected claims in court. The current two-stage RSA "offshore" process discriminates between asylum seekers who arrive by boat, known as "irregular arrivals", and those who arrive by other means, such as by plane.
An Essential Research poll released October 25, asked the question, “Do you approve or disapprove of the federal government’s decision to move children and their families out of immigration detention centres and allow them to live in the community while their cases are being processed?” Alarmingly, only 33% approved while 53% disapproved and 13% said they didn't know. Furthermore, 29% strongly disapproved, while only 11% strongly approved.
Two weeks ago, NSW Labor Premier Kristina Keneally sparked controversy when she declared that NSW would not honour its commitment to the national occupational health and safety (OH&S) harmonisation process. The October 18 Australian said PM Julia Gillard had threatened the NSW government by withholding a $144 million reform incentive if it did not continue with the process, as agreed by all states except Western Australia in December last year.
There are many myths around the issue of asylum seekers in Australia. Yet, when you look at the facts, it’s obvious that asylum seekers aren’t a problem. The problem is Australia’s punitive policies, including mandatory detention of asylum seekers arriving by boat, which contravene international law. Lack of transparency ensures that human rights are abused daily in Australia’s detention centres, creating many mental health problems for people who are already traumatised. The policy of mandatory detention will cost the taxpayers more than $1 billion dollars over the next four years.
During recent protests in Villawood Detention Centre that followed the September 20 suicide of detained Fijian exile Josefa Rauluni, detainees who tried to help rooftop protesters with water and blankets were stopped by security. One man was bashed.
It has been a dramatic week at Villawood detention centre, with a suicide sparking off a spate of rooftop protests. These events highlight the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and the need to get rid of mandatory detention. A September 24 Crikey.com.au article revealed: “Up to 27 deaths have occurred in immigration custody since 2000.”

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