A 36-year-old Fijian detainee, Josefa Rauluni, in Sydney's Villawood Immigration Detention Centre has died after throwing himself from a roof in order to avoid deportation today. Witnesses say that he jumped when immigration officials arrived with handcuffs to take him and a younger relative to the airport. A protest by detainees have broken out in response to Rauluni's death, whilst sixteen Iranian and Kurdish refugees at Villawood have entered their third day of a food and liquids hunger strike. Refugee advocates say that their condition is deteriorating rapidly in the hot conditions and one hunger striker has already been taken to hospital.
This is just the latest in a series of incidents [1, 2] as the Australian detention estate reaches breaking point and, with something like 5000 people currently in immigration detention, the authorities desperate to find further detention space following the suspension of the processing of asylum claims for Afghan and Sri Lankan refugees.* Sites on the Australian mainland under examination to take an estimated 900 male asylum seekers include more isolated sites such as the Scherger Air Force base in northern Queensland and further expansion of the already overcrowded Curtin Detention Centre in Western Australia. Until the decision to suspend asylum applications is reversed, the situation can only get worse and the government holding out the 'hope' of further off-shore processing of refugees is mere pie-in-the-sky thinking.
* Recently released Australian government figures show that just 75 of the more than six thousand refugees to arrive in Australia in the past two years have had their asylum applications rejected and returned to their country of origin.