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Tuesday, 24 June 2003
Page: 17398


Mr Andren asked the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, upon notice, on 20 March 2003:

(1) How many detained asylum seekers have died in Australia (including Christmas Island) in a detention centre or in a hospital or other place to which they might have been taken while under detention in each year since the introduction of mandatory detention in 1989; of those deaths in each year, how many were: (a) women, and (b) children.

(2) How many died: (a) prior to a first determination being made about their claim, and (b) prior to a final determination.

(3) In respect of each detainee who died: (a) in which detention centre were they detained, (b) how long had they been detained, (c) what was the cause of death, and (d) how was the cause of death established.


Mr Ruddock (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) To date there have been eight deaths of persons in immigration detention. Of these six were people detained following their location in the community and two were unauthorised arrivals. Of the unauthorised arrivals (a) one was a woman and (b) none were children. The break up of deaths by year is as follows:

· 1998—one male;

· 2000—one male;

· 2001—three males, one female;

· 2002—one female; and

· 2003—one female.

None of the deaths were children.

(2) Of the two deaths in detention of people who had arrived without authority and had sought asylum (a) neither died prior to first determination about their claim and (b) neither died prior to final determination.

(3) In respect of each detainee who has died in detention:

(a) Four were detained at Villawood IDC (of which two were transferred to Liverpool hospital where they died), one was detained and died at Maribyrnong IDC, one was detained in Port Phillip prison but was transferred to hospital where he died, one was detained at Port Hedland IRPC and transferred to hospital in Perth where he died and one was detained at Christmas Island IRPC but transferred to hospital in Perth where she died.

(b) The eight detainees who died were in detention for the following period: 16 hours, 3 days, 12 days, 114 days, 124 days, 254 days, 1 ¼ years and one person, from the date of first detention to the date of the death, 193 days passed but for 101 of those days the detainee had escaped.

(c) The cause of death in 6 of the cases was:

(i) Liver failure and bleeding, gastro oesophageal varices, due to cirrhosis of the liver.

(ii) Chest infection related to persistent sinus.

(iii) Gastro-intestinal haemorrhage due to penetration of the aorta by mediastinal abscess.

(iv) Suicide by hanging.

(v) Narcotic withdrawal with an antecedent cause being malnutrition and early acute pneumonia.

(vi) Head injury caused by a fall

(d) The cause of death was investigated by the coroner in six cases, and is currently being investigated or to be investigated in two cases.