Detention centres like ‘funeral homes’
AUSTRALIA must close its remote immigration detention centres, which long-time detainees liken to funeral homes where they expect to die, Amnesty International says.
A four-member observer team from the rights group is on a 12-day tour of Australian detention centres, talking to staff and detainees and inspecting conditions.
The latest recommendation follows repeated calls from the AMA for mandatory detention to be axed, with association president Dr Steve Hambleton previously describing the policy as “inherently harmful to the physical and mental health of detainees”.
After visiting the Curtin detention centre in Western Australia's Kimberley region on Sunday and Monday, Amnesty refugee expert Dr Graham Thom said long-time detainees there were clearly stressed.
He said the isolation and heat contributed to an oppressive atmosphere at the centre, particularly for detainees who had been waiting for two years or more for resolution of their asylum claims.
The centre currently houses around 860 men.
The long-timers were all on medication and clearly felt the isolation, Dr Thom said on Tuesday.
"They're just saying we're going to die here, we can't survive here, this is like a funeral home for me, we can't see any hope, there's no future," he told AAP.
"People are clearly stressed – grown men were crying and asking why it takes so long."
Dr Thom said an Amnesty team visited Curtin just over a year ago and efforts had been made by staff and detainees to improve things, including growing gardens of flowers and vegetables.
"Amnesty has highlighted for a long time that remote detention is not the way to go for vulnerable people."
Dr Thom said detention should only be for short periods before asylum seekers were given health and character tests and allowed into the community.
Detention centres should be near major centres, allowing easy access to medical and psychiatric care and visitors, he said.
The Amnesty tour next takes in detention facilities in Perth, Christmas Island and Darwin.
The group's findings will be released on 16 February, with a comprehensive report on detention centre conditions due later in the year.