Villawood Detention Centre

An Iranian refugee, Rafi (not his real name) has attempted suicide in the Lachlan compound of Villawood detention centre on Friday afternoon, 22 April.

The man, who was meant to be on high watch surveillance because of previous threats to self-harm, was found hanging in his room by other immigration detainees, who managed to assist him.

Two ambulances attended Villawood and the man was transported to hospital. His present condition is unknown but he has not been returned to the detention centre.

It is less than a month since another Iranian asylum seeker committed suicide in Villawood detention centre (on 26 March).

In both cases, the detainees were meant to be ‘on watch’ by Serco officers because they had been assessed to be at high risk of self-harm.

One of the detainees who helped Rafi on Friday afternoon, told the Refugee Action Coalition, “To Serco, Border Force, and the Department of Home Affairs, a human life is lesser than a dog’s life. How is it possible for someone on high watch to commit suicide?”

The Refugee Action Coalition is calling for a full investigation into this attempted suicide by the Iranian refugee and the conditions in Villawood detention centre that are leading to the high rates of self-harm and suicide.

Also read: 73 MPs call for Afghan refugee intake increase

“The inhuman conditions in detention are reminiscent of mental asylums in Victorian times. Detention itself creates mental illness and people are left to suffer and rot in detention for years,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

The Department of Home Affairs and detention medical provider, International Health and Medical Services Pty Ltd (IHMS), are already the subject of court proceedings regarding the suicide death of a detainee in Villawood in 2019.

A date for mention in the NSW magistrates’ court in May, just prior to the federal election, has been set regarding charges against the Commonwealth and medical provider IHMS, under the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011, alleging both Home Affairs and IHMS had seriously neglected the mental health of a detainee who took his own life in 2019.

It is also alleged that Home Affairs and IHMS failed to provide necessary training, information, and supervision to mental health staff in relation to their care for that detainee.

“There is mounting evidence against detention and Home Affairs,” said Rintoul, “The lack of accountability and oversight is costing lives while the systematic abuse in detention is covered up.”

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