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"Baxter madness" case to test detention policy

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 041 70 90 130

"Baxter madness" court case will test mandatory detention policy

Media Release
Monday April 4 2005 7:30am
For immediate Release
No Embargoes

"The question whether the Baxter detention centre, and living in Baxter 'indefinitely' makes you mad, is highlighted in more than one way today, both in the Australian courts and on television through the ABC's Four Corners current affairs program tonight," WA Refugee group Project SafeCom's Jack H Smit said this morning.

Today lawyers for two Iranian asylum seekers will argue in a court in Adelaide that they should be removed from detention for reasons of mental illness, and the two un-named asylum seekers will appear in court to testify (news article below), while tonight the ABC will reveal new abuse evidence in the well-known detention case of Cornelia Rau.

"To thousands of people around Australia in the 'refugee movement' it is clear that long-term mandatory detention, as well as the cruel institutional environment playing itself out inside Baxter, causes mental illness, but it seems that the only party denying that this makes people 'mad' is the Department of Immigration (DIMIA) and its Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone, and lawyers acting for the Commonwealth - against asylum seekers."

"And if we mention 'the refugee movement', we're talking about one of the largest and most potent civil movements in Australia, that has long known, witnessed and tried to counter this mental decay wherever it could, knowing how terribly depressed and ill people in detention have become, and we're talking about ordinary citizens as well as lawyers, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and psychologists, former detention centre staff, Amnesty International Australia, church members, the clergy as well as laypeople."

"Only the fear of loosing opportune support ground - especially after the Cornelia Rau affair - in what remains a politically motivated and ruthlessly inflexible mistreatment of asylum seekers makes DIMIA, Vanstone and the PM John Howard unwilling to be honest about what's taking place as a result of Australia's mandatory detention policy."

"The detainees inside Baxter who came to seek asylum, for that reason, and by all accounts, are nothing less than political prisoners, also in terms of what Amnesty International calls political prisoners. It's about time that Australia as a nation, and John Howard in particular, stops being stubborn and stops playing political games with the lives and well-being of asylum seekers."

"The blindfolded man in this injustice is John Howard, and he needs to take the blindfold off, and he should order the lawyers for the Commonwealth to stop squandering millions of dollars worth of taxpayers money to keep his mad-making policy in place. And if the demands by his backbenchers for change to detention policy are any indication, the Prime Minister would serve Australia well to implement real and not just cosmetic changes at his earliest convenience: at the moment some of the backbenchers fit in better with the policy of the Greens or Democrats or even the ALP."

"And in terms of what happened to Cornelia Rau, no inquiry is needed, public or secret, to conclude that the unchecked, relentless and merciless current detention powers need to be stripped from the hands of DIMIA, and be placed in the hands of the judiciary so that the dictatorship of bureaucrats and consequently biased politicians, can end, completely, for good and for many detainees, including Rau, too late."

For more information: Jack H Smit, Project SafeCom Inc. phone 0417 090 130
Baxter drives detainees mad, says psychiatrist

The Age
By Penelope Debelle
April 3, 2005

Two suicidal Baxter detainees will be questioned in the Federal Court in Adelaide tomorrow in a case that has put on trial the mental health care provided by the Department of Immigration in detention centres.

Lawyers for the two Iranian detainees, one of whom took part in the November hunger strike on the Baxter roof, allege the Commonwealth failed in its duty of care towards the men, who suffer severe depression. They want them sent from the Port Augusta facility to a psychiatric care unit at Glenside in Adelaide, where mentally ill Sydney woman and former Baxter detainee Cornelia Rau is being treated.


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