Two guards from the private company running Australian detention centres have been stood down pending an investigation into allegations they assaulted a mentally disabled man at the Villawood centre, just days after he arrived.
The Australian Federal Police are understood to be reviewing CCTV footage from the detention centre as part of an investigation into the incident, involving guards from the company Serco.
The Sun-Herald has been told that the assault was on a 29-year-old Kurdish asylum seeker, who suffers from a mental condition that psychiatrists have warned is exacerbated by incarceration without specialist mental health services.
The Department of Immigration confirmed an incident had taken place on October 2 and a police investigation was under way.
''The department took action very quickly to instigate an independent investigation,'' a spokeswoman said.
The mentally disabled man had been in detention for almost two years after arriving in Australia in August 2010. His case was taken to the Federal Court in June in an attempt to get him released and give him psychiatric care.
During the court hearing in June, Louise Newman, the director of the centre for developmental psychiatry and psychology at Monash University, revealed that he had previously suffered assaults while in detention.
''He has experienced trauma whilst in detention, including sexual assault, aggression and tormenting interactions,'' she said in a report to the court.
Professor Newman's report had criticised the way he had been managed and warned his condition was likely to deteriorate if he was continued to be subjected to such a strict regime and isolation. She recommended his release into the community with appropriate mental healthcare.
He was released into community detention in Melbourne in July and was a client of Foundation House, also known as the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture, headed by Paris Aristotle, a member of the federal government's expert panel on asylum seekers.
But advocates of the man say he was left alone and not given the psychiatric care and support that was supposed to be provided to him by federal government health services.
Late last month his release was revoked because of alleged violent and threatening behaviour and he was taken back into detention.
The man was then transferred to Villawood and, within two days of his arrival, the alleged assault took place.