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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid