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Self-harm highlights desperation

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Friday, July 29, 2011 » 02:09pm

The attempted suicide of two asylum seekers in a Darwin detention centre has highlighted the need for urgent government action, a refugee advocacy group says.

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition, in a statement released on Friday, said advocates welcomed news that the Federal Ombudsman would hold an inquiry into self-harm in Australia’s immigration detention centres.

He said two attempted suicides in the Northern Immigration Detention Centre, on the Stuart Highway just outside Darwin, in the past 48 hours highlighted just how desperate the situation was.

He said quick action was needed.

‘Asylum seekers can’t afford to wait for the end of the Ombudsman’s inquiry,’ Mr Rintoul said.

‘All those found to be refugees waiting for security clearances should be immediately released.’

He said an Afghan man self-harmed at about 9pm (CST) on Thursday, suffered a heart attack and was taken to hospital.

A Tamil asylum seeker attempted to hang himself with a bed sheet at about 2am (CST) Friday, he said. He was found by another Afghan asylum seeker who managed to hold the man up until guards arrived to cut him down.

‘He was taken to hospital within 10 minutes of the incident, but his present condition is unknown,’ Mr Rintoul said, adding that the man had been waiting about 18 months for security clearance.

‘The government is directly responsible for this man.’

A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship confirmed a detainee attempted self-harm on Friday morning.

‘He received on-site medical treatment and was taken to hospital where he will also be assessed by a mental health team,’ she told AAP.

The spokeswoman said medical treatment and mental health support was available to all asylum seekers in Australian detention facilities.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) or visit beyondblue.org.au.

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