INTERNATIONAL Media Release
Saturday 12 April 2003 - 11:00 WST
For Immediate Release
Australian refugee advocates have received reports from several sources of assault of eight detainees in the Baxter detention centre near Port Augusta, South Australia.
The assaults come a week before a mass Easter weekend demonstration by refugee groups around Australia, expected to amass thousands of Australian activists at the location of the hostile detention facilities, part of the Australian Howard administration's extremist treatment of refugees, especially those who in the past have attempted to seek asylum through 'people smugglers'.
On Sunday 6th April eight detainees were taken into solitary confinement, a facility dubbed by Australia's Department of Immigration's notorious Minister, Philip Ruddock a "Management Unit".
The eight detainees were told that they were considered to be likely to escape, so they were being removed and locked up until after Easter - a pre-emptive strike as it were. Most, not all were previously locked up in the Curtin detention centre, like Baxter, an Army facility - where its infamous Centre Manager Greg Wallace held sway until he took over Baxter.
Some time between Sunday 6 April and the following Thursday the men became upset at their continued isolation and began to cry out. It is alleged that they were then beaten by their guards, employees of Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) - contracters to the Immigration Department (DIMIA).
Advocates report that the eight detainees were hand flexi-cuffed, foot flexi-cuffed, their arms shackled to their waist with belts, and had tape placed over their mouths - for at least a period of ten hours.
Since then several advocates around Australia have contacted or attempted to contact lawyers, politicians, human rights organisations, DIMIA and ACM - all to no avail, because of the curtailing of independent review and complaints powers in Australia.
Australia's Migration Act, through a raft of manipulative amendments, has been 'doctored' since the "Tampa Affair" in the lead-up to the 2001 Federal election so Australia's unpopular Immigration Minister can over-rule any other authority.
As a result, State police in South Australia, charged with the investigation of assaults in that State, told refugee advocates that they are not responsible for the incident, since it occurred on a Defence Force property - while Federal police showed to be extremely reluctant to investigate the matter - confused, if not complicit, about bringing clarity about who or what is responsible for any investigation.
Australian media are largely silent on the severity of the human rights abuses in the country, or support the government line in their reporting, since the majority of Australians support the Howard government approach to refugees and asylum seekers, even though the United Nations' refugee agency and independent Human Rights bodies have strongly condemned Australia's refugee practice in the last few years in numerous reports.
Refugee advocate Pamela Curr: "So what do we do - just sit quietly while people are locked up in 'the management unit', beaten - it has happened before, and it will happen again - and there is not nothing we can do about it until one day ACM go too far: someone dies and even then, it will no doubt be covered up."
"The police have no idea who is responsible for investigating and clearly don't want to get involved or taking any action. Mind you, South Australia's State government is marshalling 300 Police and guards to face off the protesters at Easter, but there is no one available or willing to investigate the alleged assault of eight men who may right now be bound and gagged."
"Other detainees have reported thumping noises such as people banging heads or feet against the walls."
For more information call:
National Immigration Spokesperson
The Australian Greens
[phone number posted]
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[Phone number posted]