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Issue #1617      November 6, 2013

Nauruan asylum seekers brought to Curtin detention centre

On October 29 a plane-load of 69 asylum seekers (19 Sri Lankan and 49 other nationalities) arrived around 9pm in Curtin detention centre. This follows 60 that arrived three days before – 40 Tamils and 20 other nationalities.

The latest arrival in Curtin brings the total shifted from Nauru to Australia in nine days to around 250 people.

All of the asylum seekers who have been brought from Nauru in the last nine days have finalised their refugee interviews on Nauru – but none have been given decisions although they have waited up to eight months. They have now been told that regardless of any refugee interviews on Nauru, their refugee determinations will start from scratch in Australia.

They join the over 20,000 asylum seekers who arrived in Australia after August 2012 – none of who have begun to be processed.

“Australia has kept them on Nauru for over a year; insisted that the Nauru government was making refugee determinations and now has brought them back to Australia for the Australian government to make refugee determinations. It would be hard to find a more graphic example of administrative abuse,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“There are serious doubts that the Nauru government has any intention of actually processing refugees on Nauru. It has already stated that refugees will not be resettled on Nauru. It is more than likely that the post July 19 refugees will also eventually be brought to Australia, just as they were under the Howard government.”

Around 80 asylum seekers facing charges from the July 19 detention fire remain in Bravo compound. It is expected that many charges against them will be dropped when hearings begin this month, opening the way for them also to be brought to Australia.

Meanwhile, children attending school from the Villawood residential housing section of the detention centre are being subjected to extensive searches of their bags, including their lunch boxes, before and after school.

The practice, which began late last month, affects about 12 school-age children in the housing complex; those attending both primary and secondary school. All the children are being searched by the escort staff in the reception building of the housing compound both before and after school.

Despite numerous questions and complaints, neither the private security company SERCO nor Immigration management has given any explanation for the new policy.

There has been no report of any contraband material (whatever that might be) being found during the searches. Both parents and children find the practice intrusive, humiliating and stressful, contributing to rising tensions in what is already a stressful environment.

The searches seem to be part of an increasing atmosphere of arbitrary control inside the compound, badly affecting relations between staff and the parents and children they are meant to care for.

Reports indicate that the children are growing more suspicious and distrustful of detention staff. The older ones are even more resentful, with some threatening to boycott school because of the search regime.

“The harassment has to stop,” said Ian Rintoul. “These searches and arbitrary rule changes seem to be part of a deliberate program to intimidate both parents and children and to create a climate of coercive management control. They are being stripped of dignity and respect.

“The psychological damage caused by detention is well established – and the regime being imposed on children and families at Villawood housing shows one reason why.”

Next article – “Commitment and courage for social transformation”

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