Thursday, January 25, 2007
Human Rights in Australia: Another refugee's detention horror
Melbourne Indymedia carries an open letter from a chinese falung gung practitioner abused in the Villawood immigration detention centre:
"To Whom It May Concern:
The following is a statement from Mr Jian Liu. It is his account of the events that took place recently at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.
My case manager from DIMIA (sic) visited me Monday morning on 8th January 2007. She informed me that I was liable to be removed from Australia and that I would be deported back to my home country China on Wednesday, 10th January 2007. She had also brought with her forms that detailed my detention costs and other costs owed by me to the Commonwealth, and she also had documents regarding my removal from Australia.
I informed her that I currently had an ongoing matter before the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. She took a photocopy of my letter / application for Ministerial Intervention from me and left, taking all the documents she had brought with her.
At no point during our meeting was I asked by my DIMIA case manager to put my signature on my removal documents. She took them with her at the end of our meeting and returned to her office to contact the Ministerial Intervention Unit in Canberra in order to verify the status of my application to the Minister.
Later that afternoon my case manager returned and saw me again briefly. She said that she had been informed by the Minister’s office in Canberra that they had indeed received my request for Ministerial Intervention but that a decision was pending on the matter. She also said that regardless of this, my deportation to China would still proceed; meaning that I would be removed from Australia on Wednesday 10th January 2007 as she had oiginally stated earlier that day. She then gave me a copy of my removal document / form and left. Once again, even at this point she never asked me to sign my removal form.
I returned to my room and read the form. On it I saw her signature, and also comments made by her stating that I had refused to place my signature on the removal form. Again I state, at no point in time that day was I asked by her to sign the removal form.
All this time I had been under the impression that I had an ongoing matter before the Minister’s office. Hence, I thought that by law, the Department of Immigration would not be permitted to remove me from Australia while I had an ongoing matter. But once I had been informed of my pending deportation from Australia by my case manager on Monday, I was obviously very distressed as a result. For the rest of the day I was under tremendous stress and quickly sank into depression.
I did not sleep much that night. Tuesday morning (9th January 2007) I woke up after a short sleep and realised that once I would be returned to China, I would most certainly face either immediate imprisonment or more likely, death. I was in a stressed state of mind, to say the least. I felt extremely helpless and hopelessness took a firm grip on me. Driven by the most unfortunate of circumstances, I inflicted self-harm upon myself. I was seriously injured as a result and had to be rushed to hospital. I was immediately admitted to Liverpool Hospital where I received surgery and treatment at the emergency department. I stayed at Liverpool Hospital over night, where the doctors and nursing staff took very good care of me. The staff were deeply concerned for my health and well-being, and I received more than adequate medical attention and treatment.
Wednesday (10 January 2007) afternoon around 2 or 3 pm, security staff from the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre arrived at Liverpool Hospital. They informed me that I was to be transferred from hospital back to the detention centre at once and that they would be having me discharged from Liverpool hospital and taking me back to the centre. I informed them that I was feeling very sore and that I was in a lot of pain as a result of my injuries. I was in fear of leaving hospital too soon because I felt I required the care of professional medical staff and feared that my condition might worsen or become unstable if I were to return to the detention centre (where I could not possibly be under constant medical supervision).
I also had a toothbrush lodged somewhere along my digestive tract that I had swallowed when I had inflicted self-harm, which doctors had not been able to remove at that time. The security staff then warned me that if I did not comply and resisted returning to the detention centre, I would be taken by force. I was left with no choice other than to comply and leave from hospital.
But before we left Liverpool Hospital, I requested the security staff to allow me to have another x-ray taken in order for the doctors to precisely observe exactly where along my digestive tract the toothbrush was lodged. I felt that was essential because the toothbrush I had swallowed could have been lodged in a dangerous spot. I was refused this by the detention security staff and they said that I had to be returned to Villawood immediately. The security manager from the detention centre (Eddie Peseta) ordered one of his officers to start filming because they were about to use force to remove me from the hospital. The security officer started filming us using a portable video camera. I was under tremendous stress and also a lot of pain, and I quickly obtained a cup of detergent and drank it. They saw me drink the detergent and after I had finished Eddie (the Security Manager) stated that my actions did not make any difference and he grabbed me by my hand and dragged me to the escort van. I was in too poor a condition to possibly resist. While I was in the escort van on the way back, I was in extreme pain and I requested the security staff if I could lie down in order to be more comfortable. One officer named Amir refused my request.
I was brought back to the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre on Wednesday 10th January 2007 around 5 pm. I was first taken to the medical department at Stage 2 of the detention centre, where the nurse was very rude to me and did nothing in the form of a medical check-up except for simply checking my blood pressure. Neither was I seen by a doctor, nor was I psychologically assessed by a psychologist or a mental-health nurse. I had just been discharged from hospital, and in my opinion untimely discharged, and was still in a very poor condition and required medical care and attention.
I was then taken to Stage 1 (where I originally resided before this incident took place) immediately and was placed under 24-hour observation. This meant that at least 2 security personnel were close by at all times, never letting me out of their sight, and never being more than 3 to 5 meters away. Since I have returned to Stage 1, I have not been allowed to have contact with other detainees. I am constantly being kept in an observation cell, with 2 security officers at my door at all times. I am not permitted to leave the cell, neither is any detainee allowed to visit me in my cell.
The most contact I can have with other detainees is if they come to my cell and talk to me from outside my door. I am in a lot of pain and extremely uncomfortable. Since I have returned from hospital, the medical staff at the detention centre have not done much to tend to my injuries and have failed to give me medication. I believe I am being neglected badly by the medical staff. At Liverpool Hospital I was getting the care and treatment that I require under my present physical and psychological condition. Finally today (Thursday 11 January 2007) I was able to see the doctor at the detention centre. I informed him that I was in a lot of pain and felt that the toothbrush I had previously swallowed was making me extremely uncomfortable and painful. He stated that he would have an x-ray appointment arranged for me within three days from today.
The security staff saw me drink detergent in front of them at the hospital. They were aware that I had inflicted serious injuries to myself a day prior to that. They were aware of the seriousness and the extent of my injuries. In my opinion I believe that in light of the injuries I had sustained, I should not have been discharged from hospital so soon. Especially the fact that detention security personnel used force to remove me from hospital leads me to feel and believe that my rights as a human being have been violated; and negligence on part of the medical staff at the detention centre is a continuing violation of human rights.
I have been living in Australia since 1999. I have been in custody of the Department of Immigration and detained at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre for nearly a year and a half (17 months). I fled my home country China because I was the victim of ongoing extreme persecution for my practices of Falun Gong. If I were returned to China, I would most certainly face imprisonment, torture, and most likely death. I am in a desperate situation. I feel that I am lost; my future is extremely dark and bleak; and that there is no hope.
I plead to you to take my story into account and consideration and if possible, I urge you to please play a part in attaining justice for a fellow human being with no one or nowhere to turn to.
I take this opportunity to thank you for your time and consideration in relation to my matter.
Villawood Immigration Detention Centre"
Vanstone may have been sacked for the wrong reasons, but her oversight of DIMA was a disgrace. Kevin 'I am not Mr Bean' Andrews' tenure will doubtless witness another series of human rights violations. The only antidote is to scrap mandatory detention and to hold a Royal Commission into the conduct of this department.