Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Random News Generator- Australia

The RNG had a rare false start today. Guadeloupe was drawn as the location, but the biggest thing I could scrounge up was talk about an upcoming BBC miniseries, Death In Paradise, that was filmed on the island. For instance, here's Lenora Crichlow talking about the weather.

We're not going to do that. A second spin drew Australia, where a refugee seeking asylum from Sri Lanka committed suicide in Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre last night (or early today Australian time), ultimately drinking poison. The refugee, Daya Jayasakara, had been waiting without success for a security clearance to live in the community for two years, before he ultimately gave up. It is only in the last few months that his application was accepted.

What's thought to be the thing that may have pushed Jayasakara over the edge was the denial of a request to attend a local Hindu festival so he could visit a friend. However, because there doesn't appear to have been a suicide note, and since Jayasakara can no longer be asked why, it's impossible to know for sure.

Australian law dictates mandatory detention for seekers of asylum. That policy, in the wake of Jayasakara's death, is now under attack from those who want to see easier refugee access into the community. Villawood in particular is under fire and has been for a long time; according to Dr. Michael Dudley, head of Suicide Prevention Australia, six refugee deaths have occurred since September 2010, and four of them came at Villawood. The facility was described in 2008 as "prison-like" by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunites Commission, particularly its maximum-security area, where Jayasakara had spent some time after participating in a rooftop protest in April, witnessing one of the other suicides while held there. That protest saw Villawood being lit ablaze by refugees.

If you're drawing some comparisons to Guantanamo Bay, note that there are differences. Things move a tad bit faster at Villawood, there is a rate of turnover, and they're not being blanketly accused of being enemy combatants. However, the abuse, the stark nature of the facilities, the outsider nature of the refugees, the fact that they are considered refugees and not enemy combatants- and the fact that none of the people held believe themselves able to go back home- they're refugees for a reason- combine to make Villawood just as big a lightning rod.

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