…I wonder why I don’t feel grateful?
(And when will The Celibate Rifles next play Melbourne?)
Inside and outside the bars of prisons, HoWARd Government policy is driving people to suicide.
During the course of the last two weeks, six people at the Baxter concentration camp (Port Augusta, SA) have attempted to kill themselves (‘Spate of suicide attempts at Baxter’, Andra Jackson, The Age, December 14, 2006), including “A young Nigerian man [who] tried to hang himself on Tuesday morning as the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office was due to arrive at the centre”; to engage in another whitewash, presumably.
The harmful effects of incarceration on inmates’ psyche are well-known. Last September, ABC Radio reported that “One of the psychiatrists who treats mentally ill immigration detainees in Australia has slammed the Government’s planned upgrade for Baxter Detention Centre” (Psychiatrist slams detention centre upgrade, PM, September 19, 2005).
Dr Jon Jureidini, who’s the head of psychological medicine at the Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital, says the improvements will not reduce the high number of people who harm themselves while in detention.
Figures revealed today show that 878 detainees have been involved in acts of self-harm in the last three years…
JON JUREIDINI: Look, Baxter’s a terrible place. These [cosmetic] changes [announced by Minister Vanstone] make it a slightly less terrible place. It would be okay for people coming into the detention centre now if they knew they were only going to be there for a matter of weeks … but if you think about the fact that people have been in detention for months and years and they’re still in detention. And just today I interviewed a man in Baxter Detention Centre who was extremely distraught. I’ve not seen anybody quite so disturbed in a long time.
NANCE HAXTON: It sounds like you think that it’s not necessarily even the environment of Baxter, but the mandatory detention system itself.
JON JUREIDINI: It’s a combination of the length of detention and the very toxic environment, and the steps that were announced today go a little way towards making that environment less toxic, but no amount of psychiatric services can ameliorate the terrible effects of being in that environment.
Yes, but the only really important question is: how can surplus labour be made more profitable?
Baxter (Immigrant Reception and Processing Centre) was, until July 2004, a business owned and operated by Group 4 Falck Global Solutions Pty Ltd, and had been since August 27, 2003. (Prior to this, the concentration camp was administered by an Australian-based subsidiary of Wackenhut: Australasian Correctional Management (1998–2003).) Now it’s run by another mob: GSL (Australia) Pty Ltd.
GSL (Australia) Pty Ltd was established in 1994 as Group 4 Correction Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of UK-based Group 4 Securitas… When our parent company merged in 2000 with the Falck Group, another major global player in the security industry, the Australian company was renamed Group 4 Falck Global Solutions. In 2004, our parent merged again, this time with Securicor, to create one of the largest security companies in the world, with 340,000 employees in 108 countries. The Group 4 Falck board agreed that the best interests of its own shareholders and of GSL itself would be served by selling GSL and allowing us to go forward as a stand-alone company. On 13 July 2004, two of Europe’s leading private equity companies, Englefield Capital and Electra Partners Europe jointly acquired GSL for more than $A500 million.
Currently, GSL runs all of Australia’s onshore concentration camps for refugees/asylum seekers. The centres (with the dates on which GSL assumed responsibility for their operation) are:
- Maribyrnong IDC, Melbourne (1 December 2003)
Perth IDC (8 December 2003)
Port Hedland IDC (15 December 2003) (currently mothballed)
Christmas Island IRPC (17 December 2003)
Baxter Immigration Detention Facility, Port Augusta SA (19 January 2004)
Villawood IDC, Sydney (29 February 2004)
Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre (Sep 2005)
Northern Immigration Detention Facility (Dec 2005)
Yesterday, DIMIA told South Australia’s Office of the Public Advocate and the Uniting Church to fuck off at suggestions that the HoWARd Government may like to consider “an alternative detention facility for detainees who are seriously mentally ill” (Calls for government to help mentally ill detainees, PM, December 19, 2006).
The HoWARd Government is also successfully pursuing a policy designed to reduce the costs of forms of surplus labour it can’t (yet) legally detain…
Suicide fears as long-term benefits are cut
December 18, 2006
SCORES of seriously injured, long-term WorkCover recipients are having their payments reduced or stopped by the authority in an “unfair” process that could leave some suicidal, according to industry experts…
See also : RANZCP position statement No.46, ‘Principles on the provision of mental health services to asylum seekers’ [PDF]; No.52, ‘Children in Immigration Detention Centres’ [PDF]; National Welfare Rights Network.
- “What I want, is for every greasy, grimy tramp to arm himself with a knife or a gun, and stationing themselves at the doorways of the rich, shoot or stab them as they come out.”
— Lucy Parsons (c.1853 — 1942)
While the concerntration camps you are discussing do indeed involve those routinely described as ‘refugees’ and ‘asylum seekers’, they are immigration/border control detention centres i.e. concentration camps in which the cages contain not merely refugees or asylum seekers, but also a whole range of other people, such as those who have had their ‘permanent resident’ status stripped from them and are listed for deportation, international students accused of having violated visa conditions, ‘illegals’ not claiming or not able to claim ‘refugee’ status, and others.
The point is that by focussing on ‘refugees’, the imprisonment of so many other people is often ignored and sometimes/frequently implicitly excused. Concentration camps should be opposed on principle, not because the people inside are ‘legitimate asylum seekers’ or suchlike. Those of us who do oppose these concentration camps on principle should find ways to talk about them that do not reproduce the discourse and assumptions of border control.
Feel free to cite links to stuff you think what’s relevant to a broader disco on borders.
Just a couple of suggestions if people want to pursue issues around borders: Ange M. and Brett Neilson do a good job of discussing some of the issues around mobilizations.movements in Australia in
and there is more material, and relevant links, at http://www.antimedia.net/xborder/