News / Asia

High Suicide Rate at Australian Detention Centers Worries Officials

Detainees hold a protest sign atop a building at Villawood detention centre in Sydney, April 21, 2011.
Detainees hold a protest sign atop a building at Villawood detention centre in Sydney, April 21, 2011.
Phil Mercer

Australia's ombudsman has launched an inquiry into sharply rising rates of suicide and attempts at self-inflicted harm in the country's overcrowded immigration detention centers.

According to newly released government figures, an average of three threatened or actual attempts at self-inflicted harm occur in Australia’s detention centers each day.  More than 1,100 threatened or actual incidents were registered in the past year. In just one week earlier this month, there were 50 such cases.

There have been cases where inmates have sewn their lips together, while others have jumped from buildings or gone on hunger strikes.

Since the end of last year, five suicides have been recorded, including that of a Fijian man who leapt to his death from a roof at the Villawood detention center in Sydney.

What's behind increase

Psychiatrists believe there has been a sharp increase in levels of frustration, anxiety and alienation among detainees. The worst affected are young men, who are locked away while their claims for asylum are processed and also while lengthy appeals processes are worked through if original requests are denied.

Overcrowding is another catalyst for unrest and discontentment. The government has been forced to open new detention facilities at two old military bases to relieve overcrowding at the offshore processing center on Christmas Island.

An investigation by Australia’s national ombudsman, Allan Asher, will look at the demographics of detainees, their access to medical advice and efforts to prevent inmates from harming themselves.

Asher says a recent visit to Australia’s offshore detention camp on Christmas Island was particularly disturbing.

“I was myself on Christmas Island at the end of June and there were 30 incidents in that week and then across Australia in the first week of July, 50 incidents," Asher said. "We think there is something seriously wrong that needs to be looked at.”

The ombudsman does not have the power to order changes but aims to solve problems through negotiation and consultation.

Mental health

Refugee advocates say the mental health of more than 6,000 detainees in Australia’s network of detention centers it is a national emergency. They are calling for the vast majority of asylum seekers to be moved into community detention rather than held in prison-like camps.

Australia’s Immigration Department is to carry out its own investigation into mental health and suicide prevention.

A spokesman says detention center employees are trained to recognize the warning signs.

Australia automatically detains asylum seekers while their refugee claims are investigated. A steady flow of unauthorized boat arrivals in recent months has put great strain on the system.

This week Australia agreed to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in exchange for 4,000 long-term refugees in a bid to deter human traffickers.

Canberra grants visas to about 13,000 refugees each year under various international treaties.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid