Refugee attempts suicide to highlight brother's plight

A MAN attempted suicide at the Villawood detention centre in Sydney days after writing to his case officer that he was prepared to give his life for his brother, who is also being detained.

The man, a Tamil given refugee status but denied release because ASIO had given him an adverse security assessment, was desperately concerned about his mentally ill brother, according to a letter sent to the Immigration Department on his behalf, and dated November 6.

''Australia has given me a controlled life within a locked area,'' a translated copy of the letter said. ''The patient (my brother) is not being given proper medication or care. Under the circumstances, if I am able to give my life in order to get him medical care, I will do that in the near future.''

The man was taken to hospital after attempting suicide on Thursday, but a spokeswoman for the Immigration Department would not confirm any details that could reveal his identity.

She said: ''The department can confirm that a male client at the Sydney Immigration Residential Housing Facility was involved in a self-harm incident.

''The man was transported to hospital, where he remains under observation in a satisfactory condition. In terms of more detail about the incident, the department would say that it's not appropriate for us to be commenting on the nature of such incidents.''

The man is one of 54 people kept in indefinite detention after ASIO gave them adverse security assessments.

The High Court last month ruled that the regulation that gives ASIO a self-executing power to determine people's access to visas was invalid.

After the ruling, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said adverse ASIO assessments would be subject to review by retired judge Margaret Stone, but the government has yet to fully respond to the ruling. A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said it would respond ''in due course''.

University of Sydney international law expert and barrister Ben Saul, who has a complaint on behalf of ASIO-restricted refugees before the United Nations Human Rights Committee, said that in the absence of resolution self-harm would continue.

''For more than a year, we have warned Australia through the UN complaint that indefinite detention of refugees inflicts serious mental harm, which predictably manifests in self-harm and suicide,'' Professor Saul said.

''There is an expert consensus by all peak medical bodies in Australia that this is the inevitable consequence, and that protracted detention makes refugees dangerously mentally ill.''

On Nauru, the hunger strike went into its ninth day on Friday. An asylum seeker there said about 300 men continued to refuse to eat, despite the Immigration Department casting doubt on that claim. The man, whom Fairfax has chosen not to name, said the men spent their time sitting in the shade.

He said they would continue their hunger strike until the department agreed to take them to Australia and process their claims.

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This story Refugee attempts suicide to highlight brother's plight first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.