I who may well be...

Musings from the perspective of a human being who may well be not locatable completely within the usual categories of male or female or gay or straight or transsexual or intersexed or exploiter or exploited or supplier or consumer or performer or spectator.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Poor Conditions in Villawood IDC

This story written by me had been embargoed until yesterday, when it was published in the South Sydney Herald. Permission is given to any non-profit social justice agent to republish it.

People imprisoned in the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) are banned from talking to journalists. What the Department of Immigration or the private company, GSL (Global Security Limited), which runs the Centre have to hide is mostly kept hidden by this policy, but visitors talking to these people, refugees and others seen to be in possible breach of the Australian Immigration regime, discover a raft of complaints, particularly about the quality of food and dental care. This following is what this writer has been told by past and present residents of Villawood IDC.

The dentist, employed by GSL primarily to see regular prisoners in the privatized Victorian jails, travels up once every six weeks to see the residents in Villawood. There is a waiting list for this, so one can easily wait twelve weeks with a tooth abcess being treated with nothing but Panadol. Like any private company, GSL is set up to maximize profits for the shareholders, so it is sadly not surprising that detainees with dental problems are more offered tooth extraction than repair.

GSL is paid $130 per day per resident, but many have trouble reconciling this sum with the poor standard of food provided. One person on a vegetable diet was served nothing but corn and peas for every meal, when Australian standards mandate a mix of at least five different vegetables. Another example of lack of nutritious diversity is the serving of fish and chips and potato salad (that is, two servings of potato, no other vegetable). The fish is usually basa, the bottom feeding fish, imported cheaply form Indonesia, and with very high levels of pollution. Australian Health Authorities have warned the public to avoid eating basa fish, due to the pollution. But in Villwaood, residents were fed what was alleged to be tuna salad, five tins between 350 people, stretched out with basa fish.

Catering and other supplies are of "economy" quality at best, bought in bulk, from the cheapest supplier, from basa to shampoo, which is of such harsh quality residents are loath to use it. GSL was until recently saving a fortune on Breakfast (ending at 8am) and supper, until Breakfast was extended to 9am, and supper was allowed to be taken from the kitchen.

A couple of other casual cruelties talked about by residents were that the exercise area in one of the three compounds is a mere 10m by 17m, and that refugees from China are often physically bullied by GSL staff in the expectation that they don’t have enough English language skills to make any complaints.

About half of the people "illegally" in Australia are British backpackers, but the only white people the writer has observed in Villawood are from Continental Europe.

The Australian Taxpayer is filling the coffers of GSL and its shareholders through our mandatory detention policy. Imagine the improved services to schools and hospitals if this money was not being wasted on the pointless detention of people who would otherwise be working and paying taxes! Unfair detention costs us all.


  • At 11 March, 2006 15:13, Blogger ninglun said…

    Very well written and shameful story, which I have linked to; I hope lots read it here or in the paper.


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