One detainee dead - protests continue at Villawood Detention Centre

In another tragic event in an Australian detention centre a 36 year old Fijian man has jumped to his death at the Villawood detention centre on the day he was to be deported. A number of Tamil and Afghan asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected and who were alsoupset at the treatment of the Fijian man then climbed on the roof at Villawood, threatening to jump. Their banner read "We need hope and freedom". A number of solidarity actions were organised in Sydney, including two people being arrested after locking on at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Eventually the Tamil and Afghan asylum seekers got down off the roof, only to be replaced on the roof by a second group of Chinese detainees
Related: Sydney Morning Herald coverage - Solidarity protest - RISE updates on situation - Arrests at DIC - Melbourne Solidarity Protest Called

According to Ian Rintaul of the Refugee Action Group in the Age there is also a hunger strike occurring at Villawood

"Sixteen Iranian and Kurd[ish] asylum seeks inside Villawood are on their third day of a dry hunger strike," he said. "Without taking fluids, their condition is deteriorating rapidly. "One of the hunger strikers was taken to hospital yesterday but has now been returned to the detention centre."

Under the ALP's harsh stand on asylum seekers history is now repeating itself as desperate and traumatized people locked up in our detention prisons turn to self-harm due to their plight. It is time that mandatory detention is abolished once for all and the racist policies of both the ALP and the Liberals are abandoned.




20/09/2010 Exclusive media release

There are detainees on the roof right now, in Villawood Detention Centre. Ramesh Fernandez CEO and Ex-detainee from RISE has spoken to these men and they have told him that they will jump off the roof if no resolution is given.

This morning, a Fijian detainee of Villawood immigration detention centre committed suicide. He threw himself off one of the detention centre buildings after being told that he was going to be deported back to his country.Immediately after the incident, one of his relatives, also a detainee in Villawood, was placed in isolation and had his mobile phone confiscated.

The detainees of Villawood are extremely distressed and agitated by this incident and are fasting today to honour the memory of someone they consider one of their own. The situation at the detention centre is tense aand chaotic as media and police swarm the facility and detainees are being chased to their rooms by Serco.

There are reports that immigration officials, interpreters and mental health professionals in the building are not making much effort to help the asylum detainees who are already traumatized by their own asylum seeking experiences. An asylum seeker at the detention centre says, “I don’t know what to do now and I’m scared to leave my room.” He adds that all the detainees were approached last Thursday and asked to go back to their country by the department of immigration.

CEO and Ex-detainee of RISE Ramesh Fernandez says “Neither the Australian government or department of immigration can bring his life back now, this is perfect example of department and authorities insensitive and destructive actions in the handling of asylum seekers”. We are receiving these reports from asylum seekers in Villawood detention centre and if these facts can be confirmed, the administrators of Villawood detention centre and those dealing with the immigration matters of these detainees will have to be held accountable.

A refugee who has asked Australia, a signatory of the Refugee Convention, to grant him the right to live free from the fear of persecution, is now dead because Australia has refused him this right. Mr Fernandez further adds, “We didn’t come to this country to die, we are here to seek protection, not detention or being driven to take our own lives behind the wire fences”

We ask that this issue be resolved in a humanitarian way and call upon every individual to help us send a clear message to those governing Australia that our new government should be one that governs with a conscience.

The death of a prisoner at Villawood detention centre is further Bad News for Serco Australia Pty Ltd, the joint venture and local franchise of the multi-billion dollar Serco Group (UK) and Sodexo (France). Well, presumably — who knows? One of the bestest things about the state contracting foreign corporations to run Australian prisons is the extra layer of bureaucracy that comes between the public and accurate infos regarding what’s going on inside, so precisely how much death and injury affects profitability — and how much a human life is worth — is difficult to ascertain. Presumably, the corporation responsible will be financially penalised if judged to be negligent in the execution of its duty-of-care.

Glenda Kwek
September 21, 2010 - 10:03AM

One of 11 detainees protesting on the roof of Sydney's Villawood detention centre says the group would like to be handed over to the United Nations if their refugee claims are rejected.

Speaking to on a mobile phone, the detainee said: "We cannot imagine ourselves safe life [sic] back home in Sri Lanka."

The detainees, believed to be nine Sri Lankan Tamils, one Afghan and one Iraqi, climbed on to the centre's roof yesterday afternoon after a Fijian man fell to his death in front of other detainees just hours before he was due to be deported.

The detainee, who did not reveal his name, said the men wanted to be released from detention.

"If Australian officials cannot guarantee this protection, we ask them to hand us over to the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees]," he said.

"We would also like this to be confirmed in writing."

He said: "It has come to this today because we have seen life lost and we believe that we have to do this in order to protect our lives."

It is understood that some of the men have had their refugee applications rejected.

"We would like to speak with an immigration officer," the detainee said.

Comment is being sought from the department.

Earlier, a department spokesman said: "They are quite calm, not aggravated - negotiating to have their cases here as opposed to threatening to jump off the roof.

"No one has jumped or is threatening to jump. There has been no substantial change overnight."

Also earlier, refugee advocate Sara Nathan said the asylum seekers were threatening to take their own lives rather than be deported.

This morning, the men appeared to be in heated negotiations with a group of people standing below.

At least one of the men appeared to have cut himself and smeared his blood on a banner with the words: "We need help and freedom."

Another banner on the roof read: "We are humans. Stop murder. Stop immigration. Crime."

The men endured a freezing night on the roof.

Ms Nathan said they had not eaten since 1pm yesterday.

"All they want is for their application to be [reviewed] by either the UNHCR or the Department of Immigration."

She said the Tamils were not given legal assistance when they lodged their refugee applications and believed the forms were not processed properly.

Ms Nathan said some of them have been in detention for more than a year.

In an tragic event in an Australian detention centre the 36 year old Josefa Rauluni has jumped to his death at the Villawood detention centre on 20th of September 2010, the day he was to be deported. Protests inside the detention centre still going on. Solidarity protests are being organised in support of the detainees.

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