War Zone, or Concentration Camp?
"THE Woomera Detention Centre is like a war zone with nearly every
detainee, including children, suffering depression and anxiety, according to a
former doctor at the centre.
Dr Bernice Pfitzner today told the National Inquiry into Children in
Immigration Detention that parents at the South Australian centre were
suffering such severe stress and depression they were unable to care for their
These words were in a newspaper article I downloaded a while back. I
couldn't find the source apart from a reference to AAP so I put "THE
Woomera Detention Centre is like a war zone" into Google. Up came The
Age with this headline
inside Woomera: one troubled man's story
A disabled Iranian woman set fire to herself in a toilet at the Woomera
detention centre after giving up all hope of being released.
Another Iranian woman hanged herself after being told that she and her child
could not be united with her husband, who was held in a nearby compound.
Hassan Varasi, 27, the chief spokesman for Afghan detainees held in Woomera,
made these claims in his first interview since he was released on Friday on a
temporary protection visa from Woomera.
He said the Iranian women, who were admitted to Adelaide Hospital in a
critical condition, had been driven to extreme action by the inhumane
conditions at the isolated detention centre"
This was from an article by Russel Skelton on March 18 (Link
live on August 3, 2002 http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/03/17/1015909917659.html)
Dr Pfitzner was for years a member of parliament in South Australia.
She is not some starry eyed radical. She knows political reality.
Yet she said in the original article I downloaded:
"the majority of detainees suffered from depression and stress and at
least 50 per cent needed some form of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety
"I saw the people in deep depression, anxiety, and that was nearly 100
per cent of the people there and there were some people who really snapped and
went mad and had psychosis," she said.
"The children would not eat, the children would cry a lot, the children
would be what we call naughty, they are some of the beginning symptoms that
would eventuate in a worse situation."
Pfitzner also said staff at Woomera were very stressed and often over
worked. What this does to make the environment even worse is beyond
Dr Pfitzner worked at Woomera between October 2000 and June 2001. The
Sydney Morning Herald reported as part of a truly appalling article
" Bernice Pfitzner, gave up her job in disgust, having
served nine months of a one-year contract. [They were treated] more like
criminals than detainees," she said. ''I'm just very sad. We Australians
who usually give people a fair go ... I think the community do not understand
what's happening there. Pfitzner claims staff who care about the plight of the
asylum seekers do not last. Those [staff] who stayed longer are those who
accept the conditions." (Link live Aug 3, 2002: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/05/13/1021002431544.html)
The rest of this article is damning of
Australia. Who are we to allow this. If it were in the
prisons it would be an outrage. Apparently it is OK to be like this in a
concentration camp, though.
"Senior medical staff at the Woomera detention centre have
broken their silence about the strange procedures and cruel policies they say
aggravate an ugly situation. Andrew Clennell reports.
Harold Bilboe will remember the day he counselled seven men who were cut
down after trying to hang themselves using bed sheets off the palisade fence
at the Woomera detention centre. Two of them, Iranians, had been accepted as
refugees by the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT). They said they could not bear
any longer the wait for police clearance documents from countries they
travelled through that the Australian Government was demanding. Cartoon
''The emotion I had at the time was 'we're going to lose one' because they
[the hanging attempts] were happening one after the next," Bilboe said.
''The officers were really stressed out because two or three of them - the
officers - were already holding them up until they were being cut
down." (Link live Aug 3, 2002: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/05/13/1021002431544.html)
May God forgive Australia.