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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid