Democrats call for Royal Commission into Immigration dept and treatment of Asylum Seekers

Mother of three Jeanie Walker was horrified yesterday when she received word that a 30-year-old refugee from Iran, Omid Avazali, had taken his life in Brisbane.

Jeanie never met Omid personally, but neither did she know 20 year old Afghan Hazara asylum seeker Ali Muhammad, who took his own life at Surabaya Detention Centre, Indonesia on the 10th February 2015.

Jeanie has been an active supporter of asylum seekers since 2011 and has opened her home to refugees needing housing after being released from detention centres.

Since taking action for asylum seekers earlier this year, she has found herself constantly being contacted by those seeking asylum in Australia.

“I had just been reading about further deterioration of conditions on Manus Island and I knew I had to do something, so I staged a hunger strike for 5 days which symbolically started on Australia Day.

“Since the hunger strike I have been contacted by other refugee advocates who took over the strike and also asylum seekers.”

“At first they were messages thanking me for supporting them, but they soon turned to updates of the various struggles they have been facing. It has been eye-opening and shocking.”

The news of Omid’s death came yesterday from the asylum seeker community. Omid, aged 30, had been assessed as a genuine refugee but under the Abbott government’s increasingly draconian policies, he was not eligible for a protection visa. After receiving news that his mother had passed away, he took his own life.

“It’s so sad,” says Ms Walker. “His name means ‘hope’, but we gave him none.”

“Omid was not on Manus. He was not even in a detention centre. But the damaging effects of the Abbott government’s punitive policies reach even those asylum seekers living in the community.”

The news of Omid’s death is yet another in a growing list of casualties in a regime that has been described by the UN as “torture”, a finding dismissed by Prime Minister Abbott.

“Not only has Mr Abbott dismissed a UN report, he and his front bench have besmirched the reputation of Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs after she released a report into the detention of children that was critical of both the Labor and Liberal parties and their records on this issue.”

“For too long the big parties have been using this issue for political purposes. These are human beings seeking our protection from persecution, war and torture and yet Australia has now become complicit in inflicting further pain and suffering on these people.”

“The Democrats are calling for a Royal Commission into the immigration system and particularly into the lack of openness, transparency and accountability on the treatment of asylum seekers, their treatment in detention and the handling of asylum seeker claims and procedures of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.”

“There is a need for an inquiry into the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s bureaucracy, its contractors and the Office of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.”

“So far the Government has not had any independent inquiry into ongoing issues in the detention system, instead the inquiries into incidents have been conducted by the companies employed by the Dept of Immigration and Border Protection to run the system.”

“It is literally putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank.”

“Only a Royal Commission with broad investigation powers will do.”

“As an interim measure, we believe there is a need for the appointment of independent human rights monitors from the United Nations with full and unfettered access to the Immigration detention facilities across Australia and in our region where we have outsourced our immigration detention system to ensure that Australia is living up to its international obligations under the Charter of Human Rights.”

The Australian Democrats have always opposed and will continue to oppose mandatory immigration detention as it amounts to imprisoning people without any charges which is a gross breach of legal rights,” concluded Ms Walker.

Jeanie Walker
President, Australian Democrats SA
0414 534 917

PS: If you or a person you know is contemplating taking their own life, there is help out there. Please contact the following services in a moment of crisis : Lifeline Ph: 13 11 14     Suicide Call back service: Ph: 1300 659 467