New Zealand woman’s death in custody should help change Australia’s deportation policy – activist

Warning: This story contains references to the possible suicide of a woman.

A refugee activist hopes the death of a New Zealand woman in an Australian detention center will be a catalyst for change.

Villawood Immigration Detention Center in Sydney.
Photo: AFP

The young woman was found dead at Villawood Immigration Detention Center in Sydney around 10.45am yesterday.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said he had spoken to the woman’s neighbor and two people who knew her.

The woman had mental health issues and her death, ruled a suicide, followed Serco officers searching her room, he said.

“They hadn’t seen her in distress immediately after the search, but they realized she had mental health issues and people had argued that she really shouldn’t be in there.

“She needed help and that help was simply not available inside the detention center. Not surprisingly, many people’s mental health issues are compounded by detention.”

Rintoul said the woman was believed to be in her late 20s or early 30s and had been detained under Section 501 of the Migration Act for about six months.

The woman’s death followed an “epidemic of suicides” which New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is now expected to address, he said.

“I really hope that this latest suicide will be yet another reason for the Ardern government in New Zealand to act with greater vigor.

“Now that there is a Labor government in Australia, there really should be a bigger connection that says the Section 501 deportation of New Zealand citizens must stop.”

Ardern congratulated new Australian Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on his victory and said she looked forward to meeting him officially soon.

Rintoul said the Australian Labor Party had promised to review any exceptions or discretionary process provisions relating to New Zealand’s 501 deportees.

“Under current law, if people are convicted of a crime for 12 months or more, their visas are automatically cancelled.

“That means a lot of people are victims of drug offenses and reoffend. The vast majority of people who are sent back to New Zealand are sent back for drug offences; they’re not the ‘Mr. Bigs” of the drug industry. .”

Rintoul said the Australian government was already under investigation into the suicide of an Iranian refugee in 2019 and wanted to see a “full investigation” into this latest death.

RNZ has contacted the New Zealand government for comment.

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