Another death, hunger strikes and depression all over again

Press release : Refugee Survivors and Ex-detainees (RISE)

Today, just past midnight RISE received the news that an asylum seeker at
Villawood detention centre died after hanging himself. The ambulance
arrived 45 minutes after he was found by the other detainees and Serco
officers. He was held in immigration detention for about a year in
Christmas Island before being transferred to Villawood detention centre.
His refugee claim has been rejected by the department of immigration
twice. He has a wife and three children.

Yesterday morning, a phone text message received on the RISE emergency
hot-line stated “We would like to inform you we are in a hunger strike
until death”. The text message was from two asylum seekers who are also
from Villawood. Both arrived on the same boat and have been in detention
for 1 year and five months, and while both have been accepted as refugees
by Australia, they are likely to be incarcerated for even longer while
they undergo security clearances. They are demanding that the government
responds immediately to their respective visa applications.

The desperation of the detainees in Australia is getting worse as the visa
processing system takes a long time. Another Villawood asylum seeker, who
has also been accepted as a refugee and arrived on the same boat as the
two on hunger strike, is waiting for his security clearance and has a limb
missing due to injuries sustained during the conflict in his country.
Three others from the same boat, who have also been accepted as refugees,
are waiting for their security clearances in Perth detention centres. One
of them has had half his foot blown off after stepping on a land mine in
his country.

A Villawood detainee, who acts as a spokesperson for detained asylum
seekers, stated “we are on the edge of our lives and it is unfair that the
Australian government is treating us like animals”.

RISE CEO and ex-detainee Ramesh Fernandez says “the Australian government
needs to focus on a humanitarian solution rather than spending most of
their energy on political rhetoric on asylum seekers”.

More and more detainees in Australian detention centres are becoming
agitated and depressed due to the long delays. The debate regarding the
legitimacy of asylum seekers has been constantly used by the Australian
government, both Liberal and Labor, with very little effort being made
over the last two decades to understand or address the real issues faced
by people fleeing persecution in their own countries. The inefficient and
unfair refugee processing system makes people feel hopeless and depressed
and drives them to take drastic action in order to ensure their basic
entitlements are met.

Ramesh Fernandez says “the continued victimisation of boat arrivals has to
stop. The government should face the inherently flawed processing system
for boat arrivals during the last decade and do something to fix this
unjust treatment”.