Saturday 12 April 2003 - 11:00 WST
For Immediate Release
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 many Australian activists at the location of the hostile detention facilities at Baxter.
On Sunday 6th April eight detainees were taken into solitary confinement, in Ruddock's style called 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 the Baxter centre, 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) - contractors 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 amongst other things the Immigration Minister can over-rule any other authority.
As a result, SA State police, 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.
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:
The Greens Victoria
[phone number posted]
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[Phone number posted]