Many of us would have read that shocking article Self-harm epidemic in the SMH Saturday 16 January 2016.

Pamela Curr, Refugee and Detention Rights Advocate with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre writes the following to help us understand what life is like inside an Australian detention centre.

Behind the report, take a look at daily life in one of the better
detention camps and see if it would keep you feeling happy, hopeful and

Imagine this is much worse in the isolated camps where there are no
visitors and no one is watching what Serco and Border Force get up to.

People in detention are given 25 points each week. They are then
expected to earn the other 25 points. These can be “spent” at the canteen
on the following; cigarettes, phone cards, Coke, TimTams, Kit-Kats and
chips as well as shampoo and toiletries. No fruit or healthy options are

In order to earn the extra points people are pressed to do the following
activities in order to get them out of their rooms where they can be
watched. Guards come around and check that they are registered for the

Daily Activities on offer to make the day meaningful;

  • 9-10am Drink Coffee 2 points
  • 10-11am Gardening 2 points There is no gardening to be done- a few raised beds for 100 people- nothing to do so just sit and watch the garden to earn points.
  • 11-12pm English class 2 points only real activity
  • 2-3pm 2nd English class 2 points
  • 3-4pm Watch a film 2 points
  • 4-5pm Billiards -play or watch 2 points

Other activities once a week; Painting class, Yoga, Sewing, Ladies
Makeup session painting nails.

Visiting hours are 2-4 or 4-6 or 6-8pm.
Only people who are requested by visitors may go to the visits area.

Compounds are now locked down at 8pm. Guards do body counts at 11am and 5am-
bang on doors-enter rooms- shine torch in face etc.

People are given their sleeping medication at 6pm before IHMS staff
leave. Consequently many are awake again by midnight.

People who miss meals must explain. They are put on watch if they miss a
few meals. No ID Card -No lunch or Dinner- register in line up for meals.

No one allowed to volleyball court in the afternoon as before. No
sitting out under the tree. Sewing machines have been confiscated- no longer allowed.

Room searches constant- can take up t0 two hours for 4 guards to search
a 3 metre by 2.5 metre room. Room in chaos post search.

Body searches no longer pat down. Woman have fingers pressed into bra
and breasts and groins. Arms and legs are squeezed up and down.
Intrusive and abusive searches are distressing the women especially.
Female guards.

One women reported the following command before she could leave to go to
Church-under Guard. “Spread your legs” then hands go up and down. At the
Church they must sit together in a line with a guard at either end and
at the back. Other guards are posted on the doors.

All camps are now surrounded by 4.5metre mesh fences with a sensor wire
running through the middle.


Is it any wonder that they are losing hope and wanting to die?

Pamela Curr
Refugee and Detention Rights Advocate
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
214 – 218 Nicholson St
Footscray Vic 3011
T: 03 9326 6066

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