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Monday, 9 November 2015
Page: 7962


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (15:30): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Attorney-General (Senator Brandis) to a question without notice asked by Senator Hanson-Young today relating to events occurring at the immigration detention centre at Christmas Island.

As we know, there has been, sadly, another death of an asylum seeker who was detained and held under the care of the Australian government. In recent months, there have now been three deaths of asylum seekers in the care of the Australian government and also the death of another man, a New Zealand national, who was awaiting deportation.

There is clearly a crisis unfolding in Australia's detention facilities. This morning's events inside the Christmas Island detention centre, whilst still very much tense and unresolved, really do point to the fact that the government has fundamentally failed in responding to the warning signs, which they had been given for months and months now, that things were getting tense, that the culture inside was toxic and that, for the sheer safety of everybody involved, the government had to stop locking up those who are seeking asylum—and even people who are now being found to be refugees—alongside other detainees who have breached visa conditions or, indeed, are awaiting deportation because they are criminals.

It is very, very concerning to me that we have a situation where a young man escaped the Christmas Island detention centre only to be then found dead on Christmas Island in the hours and days following. This man, an Iranian refugee, was found to be owed refugee protection by the Australian government, but they had not issued him a visa. He had been in and out of detention, including on Christmas Island, for five years. He had attempted to take his own life previously and he was in a very distraught situation. This man came to Australia asking for help and protection. He was tortured severely when he was in Iran and Australia recognised that he had a legitimate claim for protection—and yet we did the very opposite. We did not look after him. We failed him in the most fundamental way and that resulted in his death over the weekend.

Of course, the disturbance—a 'major disturbance', as it has been referred to by Border Force officers—has taken place over the last 12 hours as a result of this man's death. I am extremely concerned for the safety of other refugees and people seeking asylum who remain locked up inside that centre. I have had phone calls; anxious and very stressed people have been ringing my office today, reporting that guards fled the centre last night, that fires have been lit inside the facility by those rioting and that they—those not participating in the riot—feel very, very unsafe about where they are and what happens to them next. They never should have been put in this situation. In the immediate future, the government must evacuate from Christmas Island those people who are refugees and who have been seeking asylum in our country and bring them back to the Australian mainland. It is the least that this government can do to try to put their fears at ease and to give them the safety they deserve.

There has been a spike in the number of self-harm incidents across Australia's detention centres in the last three months. In the last three months, the government themselves and the department have reported hundreds of cases of self-harm and attempted suicide—hundreds of them—and yet they did nothing to ease the growing concerns. I want to see the current situation on Christmas Island resolved as quickly as possible, but the government must have an independent investigation into what on earth is going on inside our network.

Question agreed to.