Quizzically Musing

Watching the madness

Another death in detention

with 6 comments

“You can’t keep someone locked up for two years behind an electrified fence and tell them they’re free. All he wanted was one day of freedom – one day – and they wouldn’t give it to him. Well now he’s free.” – A close friend of a refugee named Shooty* spoke these words to us after Shooty died in immigration detention at 3am Wednesday.

The above is the headline introduction to an email I received today.  In the hope of gaining even a small number of additional supporters for the cause, I am republishing this email here.   What is REALLY clear here is that we, Australia, are risking people’s lives.  This young man had been granted refugee status, yet we still kept him behind bars.  Not good enough.

Yesterday news broke of yet another life lost in our detention system. A young Sri Lankan man took his own life after nearly two years of detention inside Villawood — despite being granted refugee status (but not release) earlier this year.

 It was supposed to be a day of celebration. Only a few weeks ago he had asked to spend this Wednesday at his friend’s nearby home, celebrating the Hindu holy day of Diwali, “the festival of lights.” Yet, despite no objections from Serco (the private security firm running Villawood) and the fact that four guards were set to accompany him, the Department of Immigration refused his request – claiming it wasn’t a “compassionate or compelling reason” for a day’s release from Villawood.

Who stands accountable when a man is locked away for seeking asylum, refused even a day’s respite after nearly 730 days of captivity and finally takes his own life in despair? Tell our government enough — end this disgrace. 


While yesterday’s observance of Diwali was meant to be a “celebration of the victory of good over evil and the uplifting of spiritual darkness,” unfortunately the long-term detention that Shooty suffered broke his spirit. Sadly, a friend yesterday described Shooty as “one of the strongest” in detention and “the last person I expected to commit suicide.” When others were down this was a man who lifted their spirits and kept them positive. “He was loved by everyone.”

 Yesterday the Minister for Immigration confirmed 462 others who have already been granted refugee status and have had health and security assessments are still behind the razor wire right now, awaiting their final security clearance. But it doesn’t need to be this way: ASIO, the government agency in charge of performing these security checks, says there’s no legal requirement in their Act for refugees to be kept in detention. Meanwhile, there have now been six suicides in detention since Labor took office, and transition to community detention hasn’t been happening fast enough.

It is a sad day when a young man finally on the edge of freedom breaks under the weight of an inhumane system and takes his own life. Tell our government, never again:


Thank you for using your voice,

The GetUp team

* NB: We’ve used the young man’s nickname over fears that family members, still in Sri Lanka, may face reprisal if his real name is publicised.

Support is available, in Australia, for anyone who may be suffering depression or other mental illnesses by calling Lifeline on 131 114


Written by Robyn Dunphy

October 27, 2011 at 7:05 pm

6 Responses

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  1. […] I have written before about Dysfunctional Detention Centres and also about one of the deaths. […]

  2. […] Another death in detention (oyeniyicommentary.wordpress.com) […]

  3. So, even though accepted as a refugee, a man was still in detention because his ASIO clearance hadn`t been finalised.Disparing, he takes his own life because all the ‘Ts’ hadn`t been crossed or ‘Is’ dotted? Shame, shame, shame on you Department of Immigration! The process takes WAY too long

    mike & heidi

    October 28, 2011 at 6:06 am

    • Terrible, isn’t it? Sounds like this was ASIO at fault timewise, rather than DIAC, but perhaps if they’d just let him have that day out…………………

      Team Oyeniyi

      October 28, 2011 at 6:33 am

  4. […] Another death in detention (oyeniyicommentary.wordpress.com) […]

  5. […] Today is a day of mixed emotions for me personally.  There has been another suicide of a refugee in detention.  Whenever I hear of yet another refugee or asylum seeker death on our soil I shudder.  That could so easily have been my husband.  I have written more of the situation at “Another death in detention“. […]

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