Monday, September 19, 2005

Blame John Howard: 100s attempt self-harm in refugee detention

19Sep05 - Mental Hellholes - DIMIA documents released today reflect the mental inhumanity of refugee detention. A far cry from the ludicrous claims of 4 Star accomodation, its now been revealed that nearly 900 people have "self harmed" in the last 3 years, most of these in Baxter Immigration Centre - this includes attempted suicide, self-mutilation and voluntary starvation. The blame for this should be aimed at John Howard, Phillip Ruddock, Amanda Vanstone and detention service providers - Global Solutions Limited. This government, and those who vote for it have a lot to answer for...

"The primary problem is that it is an environment that drives people mad."

Statistics released under the Freedom of Information Act [F0I] show that 474 detainees were involved in self-harm attempts at Baxter detention centre, near Pt Augusta, SA; 149 at Villawood in Sydney and 24 at Maribyrnong in Melbourne. Between June 2003 and June 2004 alone, 305 detainees attempted self-harm at Baxter IDC.

When a parliamentry commitee visited Baxter in April 2005, more than 50 of the 240 detainees were on anti-depressants and many slept for long periods during the day. The Palmer Inquiry revealed mental health care at Baxter was inadequate by any standards.

Last week three asylum seekers were admitted to hospital. Two were Bangladeshis, following a hunger strike at Villawood. The third, a Zimbabwean at Baxter, was rushed to hospital after he slashed his wrists with broken glass.

John Highfield from RAR: "We've known children who put nooses around their necks — children rarely do those sorts of things... most detainees mental health started to deteriorate after about eight months."

Jon Jureidini psychiatrically assessed about 50 Baxter detainees: "Self-harm is universal in the population I've seen... I don't think I've seen anybody over the age of 11 who hasn't harmed themselves in some way... examples included self-cutting, starvation, drinking poisons and overdoses."

"The primary problem is that it is an environment that drives people mad."

According to the FOI documents, DIMIA defines self-harm as: "a self-inflicted injury or the act of causing harm to oneself, such as attempts and acts of cutting the body, voluntary starvation etc... For the past three years there have been 506 incident reports of attempted or actual self-harm involving 878 detainees."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday said he disagreed with Australia's policy of mandatory detention for asylum seekers. "As a policy of course we oppose. It is not right," Mr Karzai told the ABC.

And so what then is the Governments solution to nearly a thousand acts of self-harm? More food choice and a flood-lit oval! Gimme a break.

The only way to end the mental anguish of mandatory detention, is to tear down the fences. Open the doors and let these people INTO our community. There are 10s of 1000s of Aussies prepared to house and help Asylum Seekers in this country. Why must we continue such shameful practices. These people have commited no crime. They are simply seeking shelter from anguish and refuge from persecution.


Hundreds in detention attempt self-harm - AGE

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