Set out below is a brief account of the worst aspects of Australia’s offshore detention regime: the notorious Pacific Solution.

This concentrates only on the negative aspects: cruelty, abuse, criminal acts by government and its contractors, etc. And the fact that  it got us the Australian Border Force Act which makes it a criminal offence to report what goes on in the detention system. It’s even an offence to report instances of child sex abuse if it occurs within the  detention system. Penalty: 2-years jail.  How odd.  In civil society, it is a criminal offence not to report such things.

Beside those things, a system which costs us about a million Geelong Chopper Rides a year probably looks like good value to our Federal Parliamentarians.  Because don’t forget the benefits: it helped get John Howard several more terms as PM; it gave Scott Morrison an opportunity to parade his pretended Christian values by approving cruel mistreatment of innocent children; it got Tony Abbott the chance to disfigure our nation as Prime Minister, when he was barely qualified to be an outback country mayor.  He likes 3-word slogans.  How about “Worst PM ever”? Or “Liberals Inflicting Misery”?  Or (specially for Scott Morrison) “Christians For Cruelty”?

A brief account of Offshore Detention: Australia’s mistreatment of boat people


Pacific Solution

  1. The Tampa incident is recognised as the catalyst for the ‘Pacific Solution’, which was introduced in the months that followed. Under the Pacific Solution, certain areas of Australia’s territory were excised from Australia’s migration zone, meaning that non-citizens arriving to seek asylum could not make valid applications for any form of visa (including protection visas) without the exercise of ministerial discretion (the “Pacific Solution”, forming part of Australia’s Immigration Policies as defined above).[1] The areas excised included Christmas Island, the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.[2]
  2. In addition, as part of the Pacific Solution, “Offshore Processing Centres” were established on Nauru and Manus Island (Papua New Guinea). Unauthorised arrivals (being asylum seekers arriving by boat without a valid visa (“Unauthorised Arrivals”)) were taken and remained there whilst their asylum claims were processed. The use of Offshore Processing Centres forms part of the Immigration Policies as defined above: successive governments have made it clear that boat person who arrive in Australia will be put in offshore detention, and “will never be resettled in Australia”.[3]
  3. Australia’s Immigration Policies have resulted in mandatory detention for Unauthorised Arrivals, both at Offshore Processing Centres and domestic immigration centres (together “Immigration Detention”). Immigration Detention comprises part of the Immigration Policies as defined above.
  4. The Pacific Solution ended in about 2007, during the last year of the Howard government, but it was revived in 2012 under the Gillard government. It continues under the (current) Abbott government. Reports of cruelty and mistreatment are more numerous and more serious now than in earlier versions of the Pacific Solution.
  5. In its current incarnation, the Pacific Solution appears to have, as its primary objective, breaking the spirit of the people held on Manus or Nauru. Set out in Annexure A is a statement by a doctor who has spent most of his professional life working in the Australian prison system, but who recently spent time working as a doctor in the detention system on Manus.
  6. The UNHCR has delivered reports highly critical of the Pacific Solution[4]. Its report on Nauru and its report on Manus are both highly critical of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers held in those places under the Pacific Solution in its present form.
  7. Amnesty International has issued several reports equally critical of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers on Nauru [5]and Manus [6] and the conditions in which they are held. It says Manus is “as bad as Nauru[7].
  8. On 1 July 2015 the Australian Border Force Act came into operation. Apart from other things, it makes it a criminal offence for a person who works in Australia’s detention system to disclose facts they observe during their work. The penalty for disclosing facts observed in the detention system (on-shore and offshore) is two years’ jail.[8]
  9. On 26 September, the UN special rapporteur Francois Crepeau cancelled his planned trip [9] to Nauru and Manus because of a concern that workers in the detention centres would not be able to provide information for fear of prosecution by Australian authorities. He was quoted as saying: “This threat of reprisals with persons who would want to cooperate with me on the occasion of this official visit is unacceptable,” he said. “The Act prevents me from fully and freely carrying out my duties during the visit, as required by the UN guidelines for independent experts carrying out their country visits.”
  10. Statements of people who have worked in the detention system on Manus are found in Annexures A, B, C & D below. A statement of a person who worked in the detention system on Nauru is found in Annexure E below.

Christmas Island

  1. The mistreatment of asylum seekers is not limited to the Pacific Solution. Christmas Island is part of Australia, although it is more than 1500 kilometers north-west of mainland Australia.
  2. Christmas Island has, for a long time, been the commonest point of arrival of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat, which is why it was the site of the Tampa episode.
  3. Statements by people who have worked in, or visited, the detention centre on Christmas Island are found in Annexures F & G below.

Australian Human Rights Commission enquiries 2004 and 2014

  1. The Australian Human Rights Commission has presented two major reports on Australia’s detention of asylum seekers.
  2. The Commission’s 2004 Report “A last resort?” focussed on children in immigration detention.
  3. The Commission’s 2014 report also concentrated on the plight of children in immigration detention. It was delivered to the Australian government in late 2014, and was released by the Australian government in early 2015, on the last day on which it was required by statute to release it. The submissions received by the Commission provide a very rich source of material concerning the circumstances and effects of the detention of refugee children in Australia’s immigration detention system. Although many submissions were anonymous (presumably for fear of government reprisals), they can generally be relied on as accurate accounts of the detail of the treatment of children in Australia’s immigration detention system.
  4. As well as providing a useful account of the detention of refugee children by Australia, the AHRC 2014 report includes, in Appendix 1, a useful summary of Review of detention policy and practices from 2004–2014

Senate enquiry 2015

  1. Many more witnesses are available who can speak of the detention system in Nauru. The Australian Senate recently held an enquiry into the detention system. Parliamentary privilege protected those who were concerned about the operation of the Australian Border Force Act. The submissions received by the Senate Committee can be found here. Its final report can be found here.

Annexure A – Statement of Witness A (Manus)



  1. I am a Medical Doctor, formerly employed at an Offshore Processing Centre (the “Manus Island OPC”) for some months. Whilst employed at the Manus Island OPC, my duties were mainly the supervision of the provision of medical care as provided by other doctors employed there, as well as the provision of medical care myself.
  2. My professional experience includes the provision of health care services in maximum-security prisons in Australia.
  3. On the whole, the conditions of detention at the Manus Island OPC are extremely poor. When I first arrived at the Manus Island OPC I was considerably distressed at what I saw, and I recall thinking that this must be similar to a concentration camp.
  4. The detainees at the Manus Island OPC are detained behind razor wire fences, in conditions below the standard of Australian maximum-security prison.
  5. My professional opinion is that the minimum medical requirements of the detained population were not being met. I have no reason to believe that the conditions of detention have improved since I ceased employment at the Manus Island OPC.
  6. The conditions of detention at the Manus Island OPC appeared to be calculated to break the spirit of those detained in the Manus Island OPC. On a number of occasions the extreme conditions of detention resulted in detainees abandoning their claims for asylum and returning to their country of origin.
  7. At the Manus Island OPC, bathroom facilities are rarely cleaned. There was a lot of mould, poor ventilation, and the structural integrity of the facilities is concerning.
  8. No soap is provided to detainees for personal hygiene.
  9. When detainees need to use the bathroom, it is standard procedure that they first attend at the guards’ station to request toilet paper. Detainees would be required to give an indication of how many ‘squares’ they will need. The maximum allowed is six squares of toilet paper, which I considered demeaning.
  10. A large number of detainees continue to be in need of urgent medical attention.
  11. Formal requests for medical attention are available to the detainees. The forms are only available in English. Many of the detainees do not have a workable understanding of English and the guards will not provide assistance.
  12. The medical request forms are collected in a box throughout the week, and then on the weekend the box (together with its contents) is disposed of in a waste bin without having been reviewed. I witnessed this on a number of occasions, and understood it to be common practice.
  13. On some occasions when I was given access to particular detainees to provide medical treatment, they told me that they had filled out and submitted more than 15 forms over many months but until now had not received treatment. The medical complaints they had were serious and in urgent need of attention.
  14. I have personally witnessed a number of instances of trickery and deception on behalf of Manus Island OPC guards. Medical treatment is often used as bait for removing detainees from their compound where a particular detainee has complained about conditions. Once removed, and prior to the provision of any form of acceptable medical attention, the relevant detainees are transported to the local prison as a form of punishment for agitation.
  15. I often expressed my concern about the lack of medical treatment provided to the detainees. Never were my concerns addressed.



Annexure B – Statement of Witness B (Manus)

  1. I am a former detainee at an Offshore Processing Centre (the “Manus Island OPC”). I was detained there for many months.
  2. When I was detained at the Manus Island OPC, I was treated like an animal, and I was tortured.
  3. I was detained at the Manus Island OPC on 16 and 17 February 2014, at the time that Reza Barati was murdered inside the detention centre.
  4. I know that there were detainees who witnessed his murder.
  5. Those detainees provided written statements to the police following his murder. The written statements named specific persons who they believed were responsible for his murder, as well as detailed accounts of misbehaviour by the guards.
  6. I know that the detainees who provided those written statements were removed from their compound and taken to a different area of the Manus Island OPC, away from the other detainees.
  7. Here is a true and correct extract from the statement made by the first witness to the murder:

“J … is a local who worked for the Salvation Army. … He was holding a large wooden stick. It was about a metre and a half long … it had two nails in the wood. The nails were sticking out …

When Reza came up the stairs, J … was at the top of the stairs waiting for him. J … said ‘fuck you motherfucker’ J … then swung back behind his shoulder with the stick and took a big swing at Reza, hitting him on top of the head.

J … screamed again at Reza and hit him again on the head. Reza then fell on the floor …

I could see a lot of blood coming out of his head, on his forehead, running down his face. His blood is still there on the ground. He was still alive at this stage.

About 10 or 15 guards from G4S came up the stairs. Two of them were Australians. The rest were PNG locals. I know who they are. I can identify them by their face. They started kicking Reza in his head and stomach with their boots.

Reza was on the ground trying to defend himself. He put his arms up to cover his head but they were still kicking.

There was one local … I recognized him … he picked up a big rock … he lifted the rock above his head and threw it down hard on top of Reza’s head. At this time, Reza passed away.

One of the locals came and hit him in his leg very hard … but Reza did not feel it. This is how I know he was dead.

After that, as the guards came past him, they kicked his dead body on the ground …”

  1. Once removed, the detainees who had given statements were tied to chairs by Wilson Security guards, and physically assaulted.
  2. They were then asked to retract their statements.
  3. The detainees refused to retract their statements, and so the guards continued to beat them, more savagely.
  4. They were then asked again to retract their statements.
  5. The detainees still refused to retract their statements, and so the guards told them that if they still refused to retract their statements, they would allow the local men waiting outside to rape them.
  6. I don’t know for sure whether or not the detainees retracted the statements. I expect that they did.



Annexure C – Statement of Witness C (Manus)

  1. I am a former employee at an Offshore Processing Centre (the “Manus Island OPC”). I worked there for a number of months.
  2. I also have many years experience in the prisons system.
  3. Whilst employed at the Manus Island OPC, I witnessed certain events that deeply disturbed me; I continue to be deeply disturbed by these events.
  4. Detainees are not allowed communication with the outside world. They are restricted in the Internet sites that they have access to.
  5. Asylum case managers that are granted access to the Manus Island OPC are searched on entry. The case managers may not bring paper or documents of any form into the Manus Island OPC.
  6. When new detainees arrive at the Manus Island OPC, often, I saw one or two taken aside and offered a ‘more favourable’ assessment of their asylum claim if they agree to act as an informant on the balance of their boat group.
  7. Staff at the Manus Island OPC operate on the assumption that detainees of all ages will attempt self-harm. As such, self-harm is not addressed as a symptom of anxiety or depression, or dealt with at all.
  8. From what I witnessed, self-harm was not a concern to guards when it was reported.
  9. Site-staff move detainees constantly without their permission. It is impossible for detainees to form friendships or find stability whilst their asylum claims are assessed.



Annexure D – Statement of Witness D (Manus)

  1. I am a current employee at an Offshore Processing Centre (the “Manus Island OPC”). I have been employed there for more than 12 months.
  2. I have a number of years experience also in the Australian corrections system. The conditions of detention at the Manus Island OPC are markedly worse than those I have seen in the corrections system.
  3. It is not possible for me to speak to my superiors about my concerns. In my experience people who speak out have a difficult time doing their jobs.
  4. On a number of occasions detainees were forcibly removed from their accommodation at the Manus Island OPC and taken to the local prison. I was unaware, and remain unaware, of any offence that any of those detainees may have committed.
  5. On the morning of the 20th of December 2014, I witnessed a detainee being handcuffed with zip-ties and forcibly transported to the local prison. He was visibly in extreme pain, and complained that the zip-ties were too tight. In response, the attending guards held him down and tightened the zip-ties. On arriving at the local prison, the guards could not remove the zip-ties because they were too tight to be cut off.
  6. I do not know how the zip-ties were removed.
  7. The detainee suffered long-term nerve damage.
  8. The detainee asked why he had been detained and he was informed that it was for “being a smart-arse and trying to contact a lawyer”.
  9. I know that a number of days earlier, that detainee had tried unsuccessfully to make contact with legal representation.
  10. Detainees at the Manus Island OPC are not afforded adequate medical care. Of particular concern is dental hygiene. Dental problems are extremely prevalent, causing serious distress amongst the detainees.
  11. For a number of months, dental treatment was refused to all detainees.
  12. One detainee had approached guards in extreme pain, complaining about a tooth. The guards told him he did not have a medical issue that required treatment. Dental care was refused, and he was not afforded the opportunity to speak with a medical practitioner.
  13. I then witnessed that detainee using wire taken from one of the security fences to manually extract a tooth from his jaw. Still, no dental care – or medical care of any persuasion – was provided to this man.
  14. I have also witnessed a number of instances of untreated infection on the feet of detainees. In these circumstances the guards again provide faux medical diagnosis, sending the detainees away in want of treatment.
  15. In February 2014 there was a riot, during which a man’s throat was slashed. Since that time, the relevant detainee has been very distressed. He was subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
  16. I have witnessed the guards regularly intimidating this man, often by mocking him in ways that would remind him of having his throat cut. On a number of occasions I have seen the guards running their fingers across their throats to intimidate the detainee.
  17. Wilson Security guards often wake the relevant detainee early in the morning, around 3am. The guards will stand around his bed to intimidate him once he is woken.
  18. The population of the Manus Island OPC is made up of various ethnic groups. Each group naturally has members that take a leadership role.
  19. I witnessed the leaders of the ethnic groups being forcibly removed and taken to the local prison. They remained there for 21 days, in crowded cells, sleeping like sardines together on the floor. I believe this was done to destabilise the ethnic groups.
  20. Whilst detained in the prison, local police beat an intoxicated local man in front of the ethnic leaders to intimidate them. The man who was beaten lost most of his teeth in the incident.
  21. Often the guards at the Manus Island OPC allow local police access to the site. On one occasion in December 2014, I witnessed local police take Qur’ans and other personal items (including photos) from detainees.
  22. Also in December 2014, the guards conducted a number of raids on the accommodation of the detainees. All of these raids occurred in the early hours of the morning whilst the general population was asleep.
  23. It is my view that these raids were conducted in a way designed to agitate and anger the detainees. The guards were always unduly aggressive and on a number of occasions treated the detainees in a way that I perceived to be designed to start a physical confrontation.
  24. In December 2013, the local police lined the detainees up in the sun for hours. Whilst there, the local police seized a number of personal items from the detainees.
  25. It is my view that this was designed to cause maximum distress amongst the detainees.
  26. On a number of occasions in certain parts of the Manus Island OPC, Wilson Security guards tried to force the detainees to leave the camp so that they might be physically assaulted by local people outside the Manus Island OPC.



Annexure E – Statement of Witness E (Nauru)

  1. I work for a refugee advocacy organisation. I deal with many refugees who have been held at Offshore Processing Centres, including many from the Nauru Offshore Processing Centre (the “Nauru OPC”).
  2. At the Nauru OPC, womens’ sanitary pads are considered a fire hazard, and so the detainees are forced to ask for them often.
  3. Women seek also to use the sanitary pads as make-shift nappy’s given the high rates of bed wetting.
  4. Women are also terrified of going to the toilets at night because of the male guards present there. They prefer to wet themselves.
  5. Showers are restricted to extremely short periods at the Nauru OPC. A male guard sits outside a plastic sheet, and has control of the water.
  6. Often, the male guard will stop the flow of water while young girls are washing their hair and ask the girls to expose themselves in before turning the water back on. This is a common complaint amongst former and current detainees. It has not been addressed.
  7. The guards at the Nauru OPC have also on a number of occasions asked to see nude children. On at least on occasion a naked child was placed on the guards lap and rubbed in a way that I would consider to be inappropriate.
  8. On one occasion a child (on seeing a psychologist) was asked to draw a picture of what made him upset. The drawing appeared to be a dark-skinned man with an erect penis.
  9. A number of parents have similar complaints about their children being abused.
  10. Male guards continue to loiter around the toilets, often offering lollies in exchange for the young children cleaning the toilets, which are filthy and covered in mould and excrement.
  11. The guards forcibly restrained fathers who protested about their children being asked to clean the toilets in exchange for lollies.
  12. On one occasion a 22 year-old girl (who has the physical appearance of a much younger child) attended the toilet facilities late at night. A male guard seriously sexually assaulted her. The victim feels she cannot report the identity of the guard to authorities as the guard is still working at the Nauru OPC where the remainder of her family is detained, and she believes that this will put her family in additional danger.




Annexure F – Statement of Witness F (Christmas Island)

  1. I am a Medical Doctor, formerly employed at the Christmas Island Refugee Processing Centre (“Christmas Island”). Whilst employed at Christmas Island, my duties were mainly to determine whether or not a particular refugee was fit to be transferred to the Manus Island Offshore Processing Centre or the Nauru Offshore Processing Centre.
  2. I was employed on Christmas Island for an extended period, and was working there during July 2013, when boat arrivals were at their peak.
  3. When asylum seekers arrived, they were usually badly sunburned, starving, and incontinent of urine and faeces. Often they had vomited on one another.
  4. I was frustrated to see that it was standard procedure to strip these asylum seekers of their belongings on arrival. In my view, this policy became unreasonable when it extended to removing glasses and hearing aids with no discretion.
  5. Asylum seekers were taken to the “induction shed” immediately on arrival.
  6. There were so many asylum seekers and so little staff, so we were forced to sacrifice the quality of our health assessments.
  7. The primary purpose of the health assessments was to ensure the asylum seekers were fit enough for detention on Nauru or Manus Island. Our health assessment checklists included a box that we could tick if we thought that the person was not fit for detention.
  8. On a number of occasions I recall being instructed verbally to “never tick that box”.
  9. On the electronic medical records, we were restricted to changing information about allergies. We were restricted from providing further medical assessment.
  10. At one point when the centre was extremely busy, we were made aware that the government wanted to have as many asylum seekers transferred to the Nauru and Manus Island OPCs as possible. We were to make an example of the children who were fit to travel.
  11. I recall being upset, as were my medically trained colleagues, when I was heard that a four year-old boy with cerebral palsy and a young mother with twins were sent to Manus Island without medical advice.
  12. These were the first people sent with the intention of demonstrating, for the other recently arrived asylum seekers, who would be considered fit for detention.
  13. On one occasion, a new member of the medical team refused to certify an asylum seeker for detention for medical reasons. My understanding is that she was removed from the medical certification process, and the asylum seeker was reassessed (positively) and sent to the Manus Island OPC or the Nauru OPC.
  14. It is also my understanding that, generally speaking, in the transportation process from Christmas Island to Manus Island or Nauru, medical records were usually lost. As a result of the loss of medical records, some women received between 18 and 19 separate, unnecessary vaccinations.
  15. I know that five pregnant women were given vaccinations that were unsafe for expectant mothers. Of these women, I know that four suffered miscarriages.
  16. I know also that a young boy who I considered to be inappropriate for detention on Manus Island or Nauru was sent to Manus Island where I understand he was repeatedly subject to sexual abuse, including rape.

Annexure G – Statement of Witness G (Christmas Island)

  1. I arrived on Christmas Island [in mid September 2015].
  2. There is identifiable and dysfunctional tension between Border Force who manage the centre, Serco who run the centre and Immigration who make all the decisions. This enormous discord and resentment and creates enormous incompetency and faulty service delivery as a result. I arrived at the centre after lengthy correspondence with Immigration to be told Serco were not aware of my application to visit. I was then questioned by a Border Force Superintendent who questioned what political or advocacy group I was a part of?
  3. I visited the centre on three days [and spoke to a number of detainees]The detainees told me they were woken in the middle of the night in their previous I DC (immigration detention centre) by a group of men, Border Force officers, who are geared up for violence. They are taken from their beds in underpants, pyjamas – one man said he made the entire trip in one shoe. They are handled with extreme force and any resistance is met with violence and verbal abuse. One very small and young detainee was shoved to the floor and his head was hit. He still had the scar on the side of his face.

Removal From Mainland To Christmas Island

  1. They are put on a plane and arrive at various airports where they are held until transported to Christmas. One detainee was handcuffed for 12 hours straight and still has problems with his wrist as a consequence. When they arrive on Christmas they find many of their belongings missing: personal photos and mementoes, watches, rings, clothes and shoes.

Detainees Are Abused By Guards

  1. I was told by the detainees of ongoing physical and psychological abuse. Detainees spoke of the kindness of some Serco staff members, but said these ones are in the minority. They are regularly called cunts, arseholes,- they are told “Get the fuck out of here” “Shut the fuck up”
  2. Consistently they are told “Its your fucking fault you’re here”. One notorious staff member they all spoke about – stands in people’s faces and says “Fucking hit me ….. I dare you”. One detainee asked me with complete genuineness “Why do they need to speak to us like this ….. we always do what they ask”. Another staff member was · consistently named as being particularly racist and sadistic.
  3. The Emergency Response Team, whom I personally saw on their way to trouble look like a football team. Muscled up and tattooed …. with skulls and overtly negative messages in some of their tattooing. All the detainees spoke about the extreme violence they experience at the hands of these people. Detainees have had their teeth broken, bruises, split lips, and cuts while being managed by these people. This crew also use abusive and threatening language and I found them extremely menacing in my brief interaction with them. I wouldn’t want to be in their hands for anything.
  4. lf you speak out, or defend a friend – you are threatened with consequences. These start at the most extreme Red Section where detainees spend up to a week (one detainee spent 4 days here during which time he started to cut him and tear at himself). This space has a metal door with a cement bed, a toilet, a camera and a light that stays on 24 hours. Food is passed through a grate.
  5. After a period of time you are let into White 1. This is a basic camp bed, camera and lights – but you are allowed out for 30 minutes into a caged yard every day. If you question or argue with staff in this section you are returned to the Red section. One detainee told me the only way to survive this is to disappear into yourself. I ask him what this meant and he said “I just leave myself and stop talking because this is what they want” This man spent 2 months in White section and he also self-harmed extensively during this time.
  6. If you continue to comply you are then moved in White 2. All the detainees spoke about a woman [name suppressed] who decides your punishment. They all said she is sadistic and often looks in on them and laughs. I personally witnessed her become enraged when she was locked out of her office – and her response was frightening. She was unaware I was sitting in the visitors’ room with the door open, and she screamed and kicked and pulled at the door. I was so uncomfortable with her behaviour, I coughed to let her know I was there.


  1. There is no fruit and vegetables in the men’s diet (one detainees spoke of his dreams about lettuce) and many detainees have stomach, and gum issues. The food is often stale and very poor quality. I was aware that this a general issue on Christmas but in conjunction with poor health and medical assessment and response to these issues, this poses life-long issues for many of these young men.
  2. I noticed every single man I saw shook excessively. Only one of the men I saw was not on medication. They are not diagnosed by a psychiatrist – yet a majority of them are on anti-depressants and sleeping tablets. I would find in the morning they were groggy and slow and their cognition improved as the day proceeded.


  1. The detainees talk of the apathy and negligence of their case managers. One man who has been waiting to return home – having signed 3 months ago, told how his case manager forgot to notify Immigration of his desire to return … for a month. Case managers regularly tell detainees the best option is to return home – even those who been found processed and found to be refugees.
  2. There was a very slack and slapdash approach to every aspect of dealing with myself and my friend, who accompanied me from Sydney. The rules changed every day. We never saw our friends on time. … one day waiting forty minutes. I took a cool bag through the metal detector after having purchased over $100 worth of special foods to take in for the guys. We were refused because we were told we were only allowed to bring in food purchased from the vending machine outside (chocolates and lollies).
  3. Asylum seekers are given a 45 page TPV application and given no help or assistance with answering this – it’s all in English.

Effects of mistreatment

  1. Every detainee I saw is profoundly depressed and suicidal. Of the 7 men I saw, 5 are self-harming on a regular basis. They said the place is awash in blood – from bashing and constant self-harming.
  2. A man with obvious mental health issues, from Iraq, who arrived .on Christmas Island on a boat 2 ½ years ago and has never left – explained to me in great detail his plans to slit his own throat and would kill himself any way he could find. He said repeated requests to be transferred anywhere …. even Nauru or Manus are ignored and not even responded to. I begged him to give me some time, to see what I could do to help him- I even told him I am suffering from cancer and don’t have the choice he does. I told him his life was valuable and please not to kill himself. He was incredibly gracious and took my hand and said how incredibly sorry he was I had cancer. He said you deserve life, but I am sorry I can’t live mine like this anymore”
  3. 0n the above visit, which was my last, I was escorted out by the Director of Operations. He questioned me about what this man had said, specifically his threat to cut his own throat. I told him that yes he had said this and I am very concerned for his well-being. He raised his eyes and told me “It’s very unfortunate he did this as he was doing so well” I said that the man is mentally unwell and in need of help and he proceeded to tell me he was attention seeking and would be reprimanded for this behaviour. I was incredulous and asked if he was serious. He said “Absolutely ….. he will be reprimanded”


  1. A man sat outside the room and took notes of everything I and the detainees said. Each visit a Serco officer sat outside in the doorway listening to our conversations.
  2. The staff are jaded and institutionalised – and in the isolation that is Christmas Island have transcended the normal behaviours one would expect of people working in custodial care. There were numerous staff members on our plane and it is very evident there is a big drinking culture and many of the people working at Christmas are poorly educated and ill-equipped to deal with the social nuances of the population of Christmas. Many of them see all the residents at the centre as criminals and one staff member told me the asylum seekers broke our laws by coming there on a boat in the first place.
  3. A frightening culture of cruelty, punitive responses, physical and verbal violence has been allowed to flourish and individuals are being damaged in ways they will spend the rest of their lives living with. I have no hesitation in stating the isolation and lack of community visitors has created a palpable redneck lawlessness that derives its validation from poorly conceived concepts of nationalism and truly … a base and ugly form of jingoism.
  4. Every detainee I saw was broken … cried … and beyond despair. They just looked to be completely deadened. One said to me “It doesn’t matter what happens ….. I’m already dead”


[1] Joint Standing Committee on Migration, Immigration detention in Australia: a new beginning: criteria for release from detention, First report of the inquiry into immigration detention, House of Representatives, Canberra, December 2008 <> (viewed 22 April 2015) 152.

[2] H Spinks and J Phillips, ‘Immigration Detention in Australia’ (Background Note, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia, 2013) <;query=Id%3A%22library%2Fprspub%2F1311498%22> 9.

[3] See for example ABC news report 20 July 2013

[4] Its report on Nauru is found at and its report on Manus is found at


[6] Manus:


[8] see section 42 of the Australian Border Force Act


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