Jun 8, 2012
One Australian failing after another for suicidal 18yr old.
Federal Court decision in the case of SBEG v DIAC was handed down on 4 June 2012. The following information is from the decision;
- The applicant arrived to Australia by boat in December 2010, just before his 17th birthday. He had no family members with him.
- On 18 April 2011 the applicant was told that Australia had found him to be a refugee.
- The boy's first known case of self-harm in detention occurred on 24 April 2011.
- On 16 May despite being known to be a refugee, the boy was transferred from Christmas Island to immigration detetnion at the MITA in Melbourne.
- Several visits to mental health nurse, prescibed sleeping tablets, Valerian and engaged in self-harm on a number of occassions whilst at the MITA
- 4 July 2011 DIAC official tells the boy he cannot be moved to community detetnion as he has not passed his security clearance. One month earlier, the same DIAC official had told the boy that self-harm could affect his chances of being released into community detetnion.
- The first time the boy was seen by a psychatrist was 15 August 2011.
- 21 August 2011 the boy was transferred to detention at the Darwin Airport Lodge.
- 24 November 2011 the boy attempted suicide, there had been several more self-harm incidents prior to this and a report to DIAC from Life Without Barriers that he had been drawing pictures of people hanging.
- 29 November 2011 the boy was moved back to the MITA in Melbourne.
- 15 December 2011 the boy is advised he has received an adverse ASIO security fidning, which he cannot challenge. This makes him ineligible for a protection visa.*
*This is the first known case of a minor receiving an adverse finding. The court accepted that the boy turned 18 at the very end of 2011.
In the Court case the applicant was attempting to prove that DIAC had neglected the boy's mental health needs with regard to the places and circumstances of his detetnion.
Justice Besanko found that 'it is the form of detention which has and is causing the applicant's mental health problems'. Besanko J noted that medical evidence provided to the court also proved this. The decision details many self-harm attempts, attempted suicide, lip sewing and includes quotes from the applicant such as "A month would not pass before they take me out there as a corpse" (98) in reference to the possibility of being sent back to detention at the MITA, which the Court has been recently told is a consideration (103).
Besanko J however also found that the 'applicant has not established that the alternative form of detention... would improve his mental health in a material way' (118) Besanko J did not rule in favour of the boy.
The result is that this mentally unwell young man, harmed immeasurably by Australia's immigration detention system now faces a lifetime in one or more of our detetnion facilities.
Aside from this overall incredibly disturbing outcome, there are many other factors in this decision that cause concern. The Court seemed to accept wholly the evidence of DIAC (evidence provided by Acting Deputy Secretary, Immigration Detention Services Group, Gregory Kelly) pertaining to 'alternative places of detention' and the complete inflexibility of creating a 'detention-like' environment in the community so that the boy's mental health, emotional, social and developmental needs could be better met. Besanko J did note that he does 'not need to decide if Mr Kelly's opinions should be accepted' (36), because of the conclusion noted at para 118 (explained above). Great detail was included in the decision of detention conditions as described by Mr Kelly but not as described by witness, Pamela Curr (long-time refugee advocate well known to the applicant).
There was no question whatsoever by medical professionals that the applicant would again engage in self-harm if placed in similar detention environments to those he had been held in for the past 19 months.
This decision is deeply upsetting, most of all for the near certain devastation it will cause to one man's life. The decision is also upsetting for what it says about Australia's justice system. Australia locked up a boy for his final teenage years, he is now locked up possibly forever because of a finding that is not known to him and cannot be challenged in court, the Federal Court and medical professionals are in agreement that the detention is harming him - nothing is done to remedy the situation.
We understand there may be an appeal of this Court decision.
(This piece is written by Sophie Peer and expresses her own opinions)