August 28, 2013
A SOMALI teenager subject to Labor’s new policy to deny boatpeople asylum in Australia was seriously ill at Royal Perth Hospital last night after being found hanging on Christmas Island.
The 16-year-old boy was flown from the Australian territory to Perth in a medical emergency on Sunday. He was among a group of unaccompanied minors on Christmas Island, considered especially vulnerable because they are in immigration detention without a parent or guardian.
In legal terms, asylum-seekers who arrive by boat without a parent or guardian are wards of Immigration Minister Tony Burke.
The discovery of the boy hanging in a bathroom triggered a series of frantic phone calls to find a jet equipped to transfer him to a mainland hospital.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service’s plane was out of service and the next closest medical charter flight company also did not have a plane. The jet that picked up the teenager came from Coolangatta in Queensland and he made the 2600km journey from Christmas Island to Perth on Sunday morning.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship yesterday confirmed a teenaged asylum-seeker had been transferred to Perth, but did not comment on his injuries. “A minor client from CI is being treated at Perth for a medical condition,” a spokeswoman from the department said.
The Australian has been told the teenager was no longer in intensive care last night at RPH but his condition remained serious.
In the past week the department has confirmed a number of “passive protests” among asylum-seekers on Christmas Island, understood to be hunger strikes. Also last week, a group of men protested their transfer to Papua New Guinea before being “spoken to” by senior immigration officials and moved to a high security unit by guards from an emergency response team.
But there have been no known self-harm attempts requiring hospitalisation among those asylum-seekers who have been told they will never be settled in Australia.
While Labor has sent more than 400 single adult men and a small number of families to Nauru and Manus Island under a new regime announced on July 19, unaccompanied minors have not yet been sent offshore.
DIAC has said all asylum-seekers will be sent “in due course”. Yesterday in detention on Christmas Island, unaccompanied minors were being interviewed by immigration officials. One of them, a 16-year-old, believed the interviews were to help decide which of them would be sent overseas first. “They have told us we cannot stay in Australia,” the minor said.
The special status of unaccompanied minors was recognised by the government in October 2010, when Julia Gillard outlined plans to progressively relocate significant numbers of them and families from detention into community-based accommodation while their asylum claims were processed.
The more than 3000 asylum-seekers who have arrived by boat since Kevin Rudd announced the PNG solution are either on Christmas Island waiting to be sent overseas, or already in compounds in PNG and Nauru.
Lifeline has a 24-hour crisis support line which offers a confidential, non-judgmental service by trained telephone crisis support volunteers.The number is 13 11 14.