Baxter Detention Centre reaches boiling point

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

Baxter Detention Centre reaches boiling point

Media Release
Wednesday November 24 2004 10:00am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

Reports have been received from advocates of exploding tension inside the Baxter detention centre, with attempted suicides, followed by hospitalisations. The Detention Operator, GSL, has introduced cumbersome new regulations relating to the issuing of medication, which seem to clearly reduce its accountability of medical care, even to the point where "medical neglect" may be argued.

Reports also relate the deterioration of the food quality to a point where detainees, especially those with dietary requirements, cannot consume the meals, and show aggravated medical symptoms.

It appears, that cost-saving measures are the overriding measure of the changes by GSL, the same pretext that lead to serious problems at the Woomera Detention centre, when the previous operator, Australasian Correctional Management, ran the Woomera camp.

Project SafeCom spokesman Jack H Smit comments, that "this aggravation of the situation at Baxter, where many Iranians - or Sri Lankans - who fled persecution in their home country, are awaiting deportation to Iran under the merciless regime of the Australian government, shows that mandatory detention is not working because of the damaging institutional culture it creates."

"International organisations, Australian lobbyists, as well as politicians, have repeatedly called for a more humanitarian assessment which includes a clear system of secondary determinations, especially for those who fall through the cracks of the narrow UNHCR refugee assessment system."

"The Government seems deaf to the fact that if you run away from Iran, you do so because you fear persecution. The fact that the Iranians, and also the Sri Lankans in Baxter, did not qualify, does not undo the fact that they came here because they were fleeing persecution. During this Christmas season the government can either send them back to be persecuted again, or apply some grace, and save the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars."

"The choice is Mr Howard's and Minister Vanstone's. We wait for their showing of mercy."

For more information:

Jack H Smit
[phone number posted]

Report One, 23 November 2004

by Tanya McConvell, Canberra

Baxter is boiling. GSL (Global Solutions Limited) is changing the rules, the food, the routines. For a long time there has been a medical station in the compound. For a long time medication was dispensed three times a day by the nurse. Then it was given twice a day, now once.

Since Sunday, November 21, GSL insists that everyone who needs medication has to go to the one central nurses' station, the medical centre. This means loading everyone onto a bus and taking them out of the compound. This takes an inordinate length of time and everyone is anxious during the process. Many have refused to go and are suffering withdrawal.

The quality of the food, never high, is deteriorating. Now it seems to have taken a dive. For three days now many people have been unable to eat the food. There are people who have complicated problems and are on a diet who are particularly suffering. The quality of everything the people buy is also going downhill. The example given was shampoo and shavers.

More shampoo is needed because it is so diluted and blades in the shavers end up damaging your face. Since Friday, 19 November, they have separated the education sessions so that the men attend in the morning and women and children in the afternoon. (Note: Not sure if the married men can attend in the afternoon)

The people see that less and less money is being spent on their care but can't understand why more money should be spent on buses and petrol and officers to bus everyone to the central nurse. The education routine changes, they can't understand. They are like the rules of an Islamic regime separating the people in school.

GSL guards are denying any responsibility for the changes, always saying the decision has come from somewhere else and the people have to complain somewhere else. They are told a completely different company runs the health service so GSL is not responsible. The same goes for the food and maybe DIMIA changed the conditions for the education. Meanwhile there is increased verbal abuse, laughing, ridiculing, spreading of confusion from the guards.

As far as the people are concerned they feel that they are being deliberately provoked. Placed in the position of keeping people locked up for years, the previous regime has used medication as weapon of control. Many, most, if not all the people are now dependent on (addicted to) the prescribed medicines. To cut off the supply, to force people to spend a long time trying to get their medicine, to make them depend on guards and transport to get it causes even more stress.

Everyone is confused and tired. Everything is getting worse and worse. Responsibility is being passed to people and contract companies who are inaccessible to the people. There used to be a delegates committee which met with DIMIA but delegates don't go anymore because no-one has listened to them are taken any notice of the issues which they have brought to the committee for a very long time.

Creating conditions which force people to take medication, keeping them in those conditions for a very long time feeding them the medication and then making access to those medicines more and more difficult is particularly cruel.

As Christmas approaches, everyone is seeing the pressure intensifying and the stress levels going up and up as if the authorities want to deliberately provoke reactions. DIMIA and GSL are playing with people's minds. The feelings of depression, already widespread after so many years of detention, are deepening.

Already there is anger and arguments. Recently, there have been at least three attempts at suicide, one by hanging and two by electrocution. One man has badly cut his face, particularly around the eyes. And of course everyone, men, women and children know what is going on, know what they themselves and everyone else is suffering.

Tanya McConvell
[phone number posted]

Report Two, 23 November 2004

by Mohsen Soltany Zand, Sydney

Everyone in very bad mental and depressed last night - one detainee from iran he tried to kill himself with electric and now he is in hospital in bad condition, he is 4 years in detention, tonight another one tried to kill himself by razor and cutting all body his is also in hospital and very bad condition; he is also from Iran and 4 years in detention, in W2 [Compound White Two] all detainees have problem with medication. W2 now have a big problem and it is riot now is over there.

Because today they change medication time and place also than if DIMIA wanna deport someone they can take them by reason of medication or see the nurse now all deteniee have a very bad time and they are scared from deportation.

Please pass to your friend and please start to write to MPs and tell the sitution in baxtar. -Mohsen

Mohsen Soltany Zand
[phone number posted]

Report Three, 24 november 2004

by Tanya McConvell, Canberra

NOTE: the NAMES of detainees have been removed.

A new GSL centre manager has arrived, new to Baxter, previously at Port Hedland. One person has been to see him and he has promised to deal with the situation in the next 2 or 3 days. But no-one believes him.

The problems created by the new rules are obvious. It now takes a long time to do the pick-ups and arrive at the medical centre, more than 2 hours. There was anger but the DIMIA account was exaggerated. The people are very tired and very depressed. Nobody tried to make a riot and nothing was broken.

Rubbish was thrown on the grass outside the GSL office. GSL has also announced that some people are on expensive medication and the company is not going to pay anymore. One person has received a letter demanding $600 for the dentist. He has now been asked for money in advance before anything else happens! He has no money.

People have complicated problems after a long time in detention and are on heavy medication. Threatening to withdraw it will send more and more people over the edge. DIMIA does not care, people have taken many medications since 2000 and 2001, sent crazy by detention, some of more than 6 years.

Tony Ellis, deputy centre manager, does not listen and does not care: 'I am here, I am running this Baxter, I am not listening to anyone'. That is why none of the delegates go to meet with him anymore. [A detainee] who cut himself on the face was in management for a few days, is now back in the compound. He is very, very depressed and no-one is helping him, no one cares. [Another detainee] is very unwell after 6 years' detention. His problems are very complicated. No one cares about him.

[A third person] who tried to die from electrocution, is in hospital, maybe. [A woman], who has a little boy [....], tried to kill herself by cutting. She did this in the Port Augusta housing project where she is detained. It is thought she got some bad news. She is in the hospital, maybe.

The food is still terrible. There are people on diets for medical reasons and there are those who are vegetarians. It has been announced that someone, an official from GSL in Sydney or Canberra will come and investigate the complaints.

No one has any hope.

Tanya McConvell
[phone number posted]

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