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September 20, 2010

VILLAWOOD IN CHAOS AFTER SUICIDE AS HUNGER STRIKES AND PROTESTS CONTINUE

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media release, September 20 2010

The suicide of a Fijian man facing deportation from the Villawood detention centre this morning has thrown the detention centre into chaos.

The Fijian man died after throwing himself from the roof of a building in stage 2 of the detention centre.

It is understood that the Fijian man, believed to be in his mid 30s, and a younger relative were to be deported this morning. One report from inside the detention centre said the Fijian man’s relative had been handcuffed and taken away by police.

This morning’s tragic death has caused extreme distress among asylum seekers in the centre, many of whom are also facing deportation after having second rejections under the flawed offshore processing regime. The rejection of asylum seekers has escalated since the government imposed a freeze on Sri Lankans and Afghans, although conditions in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan remain unsafe.

Offshore processing is the subject of a High Court challenge, but no decision has yet been handed down.

Sixteen Iranian and Kurds asylum seekers inside Villawood are on their third day of a dry hunger strike. The Iranians were transferred from Christmas Island around four months ago after receiving initial rejections to their asylum claims. Without taking fluids their condition is deteriorating rapidly. One of the hunger strikers was taken to hospital yesterday but has now been returned to the detention centre.

The death of the Fijian man has thrown a stark light on mandatory detention and conditions inside the detention centres. This is the third death in a detention centre under the Labor government. Three Tamil asylum seekers in Villawood have attempted suicide in recent weeks and there have been serious suicide attempts on Christmas Island.

Tamil asylum seekers have assembled waving black plastic bags as a traditional gesture of mourning for the Fijian man. Tamil asylum seekers have gone on 24 hour fast in sympathy with the Fijian man.

“We are very sad and anxious,” one Tamil spoke from detention, “This man did in front of our eyes. This could be happening to us. We could have the same fate. What is next for us?”

“Mandatory detention is killing people – some quickly some more slowly,” said Ian Rintoul spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. “Rather than expanding detention centres, they should be closed. ”

For more information, contact Refugee Action Coalition Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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