War Zone... or Concentration Camp? 

One Man's Web > Politics and Ethics > Australia and the Refugees > War Zone, or Concentration Camp?

War Zone, or Concentration Camp?

"THE Woomera Detention Centre is like a war zone with nearly every detainee, including children, suffering depression and anxiety, according to a former doctor at the centre.

Dr Bernice Pfitzner today told the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention that parents at the South Australian centre were suffering such severe stress and depression they were unable to care for their children."

These words were in a newspaper article I downloaded a while back.  I couldn't find the source apart from a reference to AAP so I put "THE Woomera Detention Centre is like a war zone" into Google.  Up came The Age with this headline 

Despair inside Woomera: one troubled man's story
A disabled Iranian woman set fire to herself in a toilet at the Woomera detention centre after giving up all hope of being released.
Another Iranian woman hanged herself after being told that she and her child could not be united with her husband, who was held in a nearby compound.
Hassan Varasi, 27, the chief spokesman for Afghan detainees held in Woomera, made these claims in his first interview since he was released on Friday on a temporary protection visa from Woomera.
He said the Iranian women, who were admitted to Adelaide Hospital in a critical condition, had been driven to extreme action by the inhumane conditions at the isolated detention centre" 

This was from an article by Russel Skelton on March 18 (Link live on August 3, 2002 http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/03/17/1015909917659.html)

Dr Pfitzner was for years a member of parliament in South Australia.  She is not some starry eyed radical.  She knows political reality.  Yet she said in the original article I downloaded:

"the majority of detainees suffered from depression and stress and at least 50 per cent needed some form of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety treatment.
"I saw the people in deep depression, anxiety, and that was nearly 100 per cent of the people there and there were some people who really snapped and went mad and had psychosis," she said.
"The children would not eat, the children would cry a lot, the children would be what we call naughty, they are some of the beginning symptoms that would eventuate in a worse situation."

Pfitzner also said staff at Woomera were very stressed and often over worked.  What this does to make the environment even worse is beyond guessing.

Dr Pfitzner worked at Woomera between October 2000 and June 2001. The Sydney Morning Herald reported as part of a truly appalling article

" Bernice Pfitzner, gave up her job in disgust, having served nine months of a one-year contract. [They were treated] more like criminals than detainees," she said. ''I'm just very sad. We Australians who usually give people a fair go ... I think the community do not understand what's happening there. Pfitzner claims staff who care about the plight of the asylum seekers do not last. Those [staff] who stayed longer are those who accept the conditions." (Link live Aug 3, 2002: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/05/13/1021002431544.html)

The rest of this article is damning of Australia.  Who are we to allow this.  If it were in the prisons it would be an outrage.  Apparently it is OK to be like this in a concentration camp, though. 

"Senior medical staff at the Woomera detention centre have broken their silence about the strange procedures and cruel policies they say aggravate an ugly situation. Andrew Clennell reports. 

Harold Bilboe will remember the day he counselled seven men who were cut down after trying to hang themselves using bed sheets off the palisade fence at the Woomera detention centre. Two of them, Iranians, had been accepted as refugees by the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT). They said they could not bear any longer the wait for police clearance documents from countries they travelled through that the Australian Government was demanding. Cartoon by Nicholson

''The emotion I had at the time was 'we're going to lose one' because they [the hanging attempts] were happening one after the next," Bilboe said.

''The officers were really stressed out because two or three of them - the officers - were already holding them up until they were being cut down."  (Link live Aug 3, 2002: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/05/13/1021002431544.html)

May God forgive Australia.



One Man's Web > Politics and Ethics