Iraqi Man Dies in Villawood

Published: Thu 7 Mar 2019 05:40 PM
Jane Salmon
Another man has died in Villawood detention centre this week. He was from Iraq. His name has not yet been released because next of kin have not been informed.
In late January, a man from Sierra Leone called Musa also died in Villawood under similar circumstances.
In each case, refugee advocates heard about it before the police did. I’m basing this piece on the scant information to hand.
That is two suicides at one centre in six weeks. If Villawood was a school, the government would probably close it down. And they should.
And before that ... there was a death at Yongah Hill detention centre near Perth.
The latest fatality is a man who had (reportedly) been living in the community. He had problems. He may have found himself on the wrong side of some law or other. He was hauled in to Villawood. He had just been told he had no hope of staying in Australia. His entire ordeal as an asylum seeker was for nothing. He would be sent back.
Why him? Why now?
We hold refugees to standards of behaviour that do not apply to ordinary Australians.
In Iran even being gay is a capital offence.
Sadly, when asylum seekers flee danger, war or trauma, we add more. The cruelties Australia inflicts on damaged, uprooted, stateless souls are incomprehensible.
These days we entertain punitive policies meant to deter new arrivals. We frequently deny them access to Medicare.
Visa overstayers and asylum seekers are detained in crowded, chaotic centres that make jails look luxurious. We throw foreign born drug runners and scammers in with asylum seekers of every race. We offer no cultural sensitivity and few interpreters. Access to legal support has been cut.
Then, if a detainee gets a community detention visa, we starve them & deny them work for years on end.
The meagre sums ($60 per week) made available to refugees from charities are only provided on the condition that no other income or resource stream exists. Their situation is ghastly and humiliating.
Aussie racists will always focus on refugees and aborigines. Some police see them as conspicuous or even as potential law-breakers or a threat even when they are minding their own business or visiting a mosque.
Poverty is a precursor to almost every crime (except banking).
We treat refugees to every kind of indignity. There are legislative attempts to ban phones in detention, only ever postponed by court injunction.
Australian Border Force makes their visitors apply in writing days in advance. Guards tell visitors off for being kind or generous. Food can only be brought in supermarket packets. Home cooking is vetoed.
The ABF and Serco culture is to hire ex army, highly qualified terrorism experts to guard even the catatonic in hospital. They handcuff the sick.
How a depressed person becomes safe and healthy in the Villawood environment is beyond me. Men from Manus & people from Nauru should not be there. They have each been through six years of hell. As for splitting families, don’t start me.
So this bloke, who had been an Iraqi in Iran, eventually came here. Going back was probably a death sentence. Sometimes returnees disappear from airports. (The Edmund Rice Centre used to track these deaths, but seems to find the task overwhelming nowadays).
Instead of asking why the latest man managed to die in a heavily guarded facility of 400 souls, slap bang in the middle of Sydney, perhaps we need to ask why more don’t.
Calls for inquiries from human rights lawyers go back decades.
Here is George Newhouse speaking about it in 2010:
And here is another expert ...
"The tragic death last night of the second immigration detainee in less than two months, demands immediate action from the government," said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, " The government must immediately release all 'at-risk' detainees from immigration detention.
"It is clear the mental health crisis that is created by long-term detention, cannot be managed from inside the detention centres. Musa's suicide death two months ago in Villawood was a stark warning that has been ignored by the government. Attempted suicide is almost daily occurrence in Australia's detention centres.
"People are unnecessarily being held in immigration detention. Just like offshore detention, the onshore detainees are hostages to the government's electoral strategy.
"The detention centres should be closed."
We need to be humane. Instead we have politicians playing hunger games with desperate people. Governments claim scarcity when it comes to off peak concession train fares and hospital beds but have oodles to waste on private contractors offshore. We have detained stateless, blameless people for up to nine years.
How can Australia be so cynical, savage and heartless? The fear of inundation is baseless. We absorb hundreds of thousands of economic migrants annually. So so other countries who also support their fair share of the workd’s 68 million refugees.
Most refugees are just brave, decent folk with a ton of initiative trying to find a bearable way to live. The rest are flawed People Just Like Us. And that is their right, too.
We need to be kinder. And we need to close the centres and camps: they manufacture madnes, despair and both are spreading like a stain across Australia’s character.

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