Friday, April 29, 2011

Australia's rejection of "asylum seeker" claims stokes detention centre unrest

IMMIGRATION officials have begun delivering a fresh round of rejections to detainees on Christmas Island, sparking concerns of more unrest.

A detainee who received one of the rejections this week sewed his lips together. A fellow detainee was found pacing the detention centre with razors in his mouth.

The Australian has been told that the Immigration Department is in the process of handing down about 200 decisions to asylum-seekers on Christmas Island and, in keeping with recent rejection rates, many of them will be what are termed "negatives".

Yesterday, protests and disputes continued at Villawood and the island's family camp but federal police and guards succeeded in ending a three-day rooftop protest at the Christmas Island detention centre by locking more than 1000 fellow detainees in their compounds on Wednesday night.

The men on the roof were told that the centre would remain "in lockdown" until they came down. The standoff lasted about four hours before the six men used a ladder left by guards to climb down, The Australian has been told.

"They got told that the others locked in their rooms would be really angry with them if they kept up their protest because as long as they stayed up there no one would be allowed out in the fresh air," one centre worker said.

Centre manager Serco took the step after West Australian Premier Colin Barnett urged the federal and NSW governments to send in police to get detainees off rooftops at Villawood and Christmas Island.

Yesterday two Iraqi men in the Perth immigration detention centre were receiving medical checks after guards intervened to stop them acting on threats to kill themselves.

It emerged yesterday that by February this year, the incidence of self-harm inside Australia's immigration detention centres was already more than four times higher than last financial year.

The number of self-harm attempts in immigration detention was the highest since 2003-04 and surpassed the 2002-03 total of 182, one of the worst years for self-harm attempts.

Responding to questions on notice from Senate estimate hearings in February, Immigration head Andrew Metcalfe revealed that, as of the end of February, there were 186 incidents of self-harm across the network this financial year.

Since then there have been numerous suicide attempts and protests that have resulted in serious incidents of self harm.

The figures came as Mr Metcalfe also revealed there were 46 full-time mental health staff at mainland detention centres, with three facilities in Perth and Brisbane having no available staff on-site.


Texas Senate pushes immigration checks by cops

The Texas Senate has approved a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to run anyone arrested through a federal immigration enforcement program.

The Secure Communities program identifies immigrants who could be deported because of their immigration status and is just one of several provisions in the bill approved by the Senate Thursday. The program is already used county jails.

The bill by Republican Sen. Tommy Williams would also require proof of U.S. citizenship to obtain or renew a driver's license if the information hasn't been previously provided.

Williams said that's because a license no longer just gives permission to drive, but serves as a secure form of ID.

The bill contains an additional $8 fee for a driver's license that will go toward improving outdated technology and inadequate staffing.


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