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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora