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Issue #1711      November 18, 2015

Asylum seekers left without food, water

Around 20 asylum seekers in White 2 compound on Christmas Island have been left without enough food or water for more than 24 hours. The asylum seekers were initially in the “protection compound”, Gold 2 and locked in when the disturbance broke out late on the Saturday night.

A roof top protest at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, in Sydney’s western suburbs, 2011. (Photo: Tracey Nearmy)

The doors of the compound were unlocked on the Sunday morning when fires were set from outside the compound. The asylum seekers were taken from Gold 2 to Red 2 (the high security unit), where they were held three to a cell with no mattresses.

Around 1am on the Monday morning, prior to police re-entering the detention centre, the detainees were woken and verbally abused by masked Serco guards who ordered them to move from Red 2 to be locked in the basketball court.

They were moved to the basketball court it seems to make room for other detainees who were placed in the high security Red Compound after the police action to re-enter the detention centre.

Early on the Tuesday morning they were moved from the basketball court and placed in White 2 – another high security area. Before the move they were forced to sign consent forms to be strip-searched.

They have had little food or water since they were locked in White 2 on the Monday morning. They were delivered expired beef lasagne that night on the basket-ball court, but no-one ate it.

On Tuesday morning, after being strip-searched, and moved to White 2, they were given just two packets of bread between 20 people; for lunch they each got a pie and two potatoes (but no water). On Tuesday night they received no food but their first water in over 24 hours – two litres each. They were only allowed to the toilet twice in almost three days.

Despite being locked in White 2, there were no guards present in White 2. There has already been one attempted suicide on the Monday night that they were left to try and manage themselves.

“The detainees in White 2 asked me to get help for them,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. “ ‘Why is the government saying the guards are in the detention centre, when it is not true?’ they asked.”

“More than anything they want water. But the asylum seekers also need justice. They should never have been sent to Christmas Island. There needs to be immediate moves to get all asylum seekers and 501s off Christmas Island as a first step to its total closure. And there needs to be a full inquiry to expose Christmas Island’s ‘behaviour management regime’ that has brutalised all those who were sent there.

“The secrecy with which the government surrounds the detention centres has allowed the government and Serco to violate human rights with impunity. The Minister says that order has been restored to the Christmas Island detention centre, but it is the detainees in White 2 tell who tell us what their ‘order’ really looks like.”

Meanwhile, an Iranian Kurdish refugee, Fazel Chegeni, has died on Christmas Island. The man, in his early 30s, escaped from the North West Point detention centre on Friday November 6. Detainees had reported that Fazel was missing.

Detainees in the centre report that police brought the man’s body to the detention centre around 9am Christmas Island time, Sunday November 8.

The circumstances of his death are not known. But there was a resident woken around 4am at a house in the Settlement area and the man disappeared down a track known as “The Incline”. But it is not known whether this incident is related to Fazel at all.

Fazel arrived in Australia in 2010. He had been found to be a refugee when he was in Curtin detention centre, around two and half years ago. He was unfairly charged with assault following a fight between detainees at the detention centre. He was later released into the community in Melbourne for a few months but was re-detained in Melbourne even though he was given a good behaviour bond from the assault charge.

He had been in Christmas Island detention for around 10 weeks after being transferred from Wickham Point, Darwin. He had recently been invited by the Minister to make another protection visa application.

At a meeting, detainees were told that Fazel’s body was found ‘in the jungle’ and that he had been dead “for some time”. Like so many others, Fazel was suffering the effects of long-term, arbitrary detention. Fazel had attempted suicide when he was in Melbourne; again when he was in Brisbane, and then again in Wickham Point not long before he was transferred to Christmas Island.

He had told other detainees that he could no longer stand being in detention and just wanted “to go outside”.

“This is another needless detention death,” said Ian Rintoul. “This time of a refugee who should never have been in detention. His mental health problems were well known. Detention could only exacerbate those problems.

“The delay in processing and releasing him is inexcusable. He is a victim of the punitive detention regime that cares nothing for the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees.”

Next article – Asbestos awareness month

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