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August 10, 2010

WHILE POLITICIANS PLAY POLITICAL FOOTBALL WITH REFUGEES, CHRISTMAS ISLAND MENTAL ILLNESS TOLL KEEPS RISING

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media Release August 10, 2010

Two attempted suicides among Tamil asylum seekers and the fear of permanent damage to another individual hunger striker last week has rocked the detainees inside the Christmas Island detention centre.

The three men, who have been waiting for over a year for security clearances, have given up hope of ever being free or able to assist their families left behind in desperate circumstances.

In the most recent, and among the worst incident seen on Christmas Island, last Friday the Tamil man went into the bathroom, wrote the names of his wife and children and slashed his throat.

Earlier in the week, another man took an overdose of sleeping pills and was rushed to emergency treatment. The hunger striker also began his strike refusing to take water and it is feared he may have permanent damage to internal organs.

The incidents have again revealed the scale of desperation and mental illness created by the government’s policy of mandatory detention and off-shore processing. Incidents of self-harm have become more than weekly events on Christmas Island.

The failure of Australian governments to properly fund mental health services has been described by Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry as a “national obscenity”. Just as obscene are the detention policies that are inflicting a horrible toll on asylum seekers on Christmas Island and in other detention centres.

“In his Australian of the Year acceptance speech, Professor McGorry described detention centres as “factories of mental illness” – tragically they are living up to his description. The mental illness factories should be closed. The money wasted on Christmas Island could easily fund Professor McGorry’s Headspace community centres,” said Ian Rintoul.

Anxiety levels inside the detention centres have been pushed up in the course of the election campaign, as asylum seekers become increasingly worried at their fate with Labor and Liberal leaders competing in their efforts to be seen to be the toughest on refugees.

“Their race to the bottom has thrown a pall of uncertainty over the detention centres.  The government is playing Russian roulette with people’s lives,” said Rintoul.

Meanwhile the overcrowding continues. One Tamil man returned to Christmas Island after having a leg prosthesis fitted in Perth was returned to a room with only three beds for four people. To make room, a younger Tamil is now sleeping on a table in the compound’s TV room.

For more information: Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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