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Detention report depicts 'culture of carnage'

New figures on self harm in Australian detention centres reveal a "culture of carnage" that leaves the Commonwealth open to being sued for negligence, according to a report released yesterday by the Catholic Commission for Justice Development and Peace (CCJDP) of the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information (FoI) revealed 264 incidents of self harm in immigration detention centres between March and October 2001, including 29 involving young people aged up to 20 years. Exposing children to self harm was "best described as institutional child abuse", alleges the report, which was compiled jointly with the Western Young People's Independent Network.

"Current and future governments could be held accountable in the courts for the damage it is knowingly doing to young people," it says.

CCJDP executive officer Marc Purcell said two adults in their 20s, currently on temporary protection visas, were taking legal advice on suing the government, alleging false detention and harm to them at Woomera.

The FoI data reveals children refused to eat, including two aged under two years, four between three and five years, and two between five and eight years of age.

Twenty young people, aged up to 20 years, refused to eat, while nine teenagers aged 17 and 18 had "self-harmed".

The report Damaging Kids, says the high rate of self-harm among adults could be described as a "culture of carnage in DIMIA (Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs) institutions."

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock's spokesman told ABC radio the government had not disguised incidents and the report was part of efforts to put the government under duress to release people.

Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace (Archdioces of Melbourne)
Catholic Church report on self harm in detention centres (ABC Radio 'PM' Windows Media audio report)
Immigrant self-harm 'covered up' in Australia (The Guardian, London)
Australia warned on asylum camps (BBC)
Church finds "culture of carnage" at Australia camps (Reuters)


22 May 2002