Include detention deaths in Cornelia Rau Inquiry, advocates say

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130

Include detention deaths in Cornelia Rau Inquiry, advocates say

Media Release
Sunday May 1 2005 9:30am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"After media reports that yet another person has died in immigration detention, this time in Darwin harbour - while this is not the first time someone dies whist being detained on a cramped rickety fishing boat in the Darwin harbour - resulting in a demand for answers from the Indonesian government about the cause of this death, WA Refugee group Project SafeCom demands that the Cornelia Rau Inquiry should again be extended to also include deaths in Immigration detention," spokesman Jack H Smit said today.

"Nobody in government flinches when people die in custody under immigration legislation, Ministers do not blink an eye, nobody apologizes and life goes on as if nothing happens.

"Just a few weeks ago questions were raised about the use of the "killer aspirin" Vioxx in detention centres, and whether or not administration of this drug was linked or not to three deaths in detention centres in the last three years, but the government spin machine tried to kill the questions: Senator Andrew Bartlett backed the call by Project SafeCom to provide a full list of all former and present immigration detainees who were or have been at some stage on Vioxx prescriptions, just to enable medical checks on any possible medical implications, but the call fell on deaf ears.

"The case for a Royal Commission or other judicial inquiry gains strength with the news of this week's death, also because we must assume that the Howard government resorts to spin and avoidance of answers rather than that it knows about its duty of accountability to the Australian electorate and to Australian citizens and residents: we have this as the overwhelming method of dealing with queries, questions and demands for answers from John Howard.

"The summary provided by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre's Community Campaigner Pamela Curr (see below) strengthens the case for a full inquiry into all detention deaths. There is no doubt that Mick Palmer's inquiry, closed as it is intended, will not or can not deal with the big questions that remain unanswered about the Immigration Department's shonky dealings with lives of people under their supervision or care."

For more information:

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]


Last Thursday Muhammed Heri, 37, died after being detained on his boat for a week along with his 10 crew. This is the second death in two years in Darwin Harbour.

This is the 13th death in Immigration Detention since December 2000.

After 23-year-old Mansur La Ibu died suddenly at 3.30am in 2003, recommendations were made to detain fishermen at the Coonawarra facility in Darwin. According to Senator McCrossin this $9.6 million dollar centre is being spent maintained at a cost of $80,000 a year and questions why fishermen are not being cared for there:

"Instead they are still being forced to stay on their boats, living in confined spaces with no means of communication." says Pamela Cur of the ASRC. "During the Coronial Inquiry into the death of Mansur La Ibu, evidence was given that six men were sleeping in an area 3 feet high by 5 feet long and 4 feet wide with no toilet facilities - and that the only way they can attract attention is to cut their lines and look like they may be attempting to escape.

Barefoot Marine is the company holding the contract to provide food and services to the fishermen imprisoned on their boats in the harbour.

Senator Scullion in May 2002 confirmed that the company Barefoot Marine, of which he was director, has a contract with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority in Darwin. He has also admitted he obtained a stipend from the company two weeks after being sworn into office, which the Constitution prohibits:

"Currently there are 90 Indonesian fishermen being detained in quarantine on 14 boats in Darwin. There are concerns that unaccompanied minors could be among this group."

At the coronial inquiry into the death of Mansur La Ibu, The Coroner said. "However, matters of high principle are involved for the deceased was held by Federal Government agencies for some weeks against his will, as a virtual prisoner without charges being preferred against him, without trial and without access to judicial review. In my view, such a state of affairs is to be deprecated. Furthermore, the standard of such detention in the case of the deceased is also to be deprecated; to keep seven men on a vessel such as the "Yamdena" for some weeks where their only shelter (and sleeping accommodation) is a small box the size referred to in the evidence of Senior Constable Sandry is unacceptable. Accordingly, I recommend that where detained crew members of vessels are not charged with any offence, they be repatriated home as soon as reasonably practicable.


"With 13 people dying in detention in less than 5 years, government claims of excellent fulltime medical facilities are in question."

Click to check if this page is Valid HTML 4.01! Click to check if this page contains valid Cascading Style Sheets