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More asylum seeker blood on Australia's hands

  • 13 March 2012

The Australian Government and the Coalition must accept some responsibility for the death of a 28-year-old Afghan asylum seeker, identified in news reports as Taqi Nekoyee, inside an Indonesian detention centre last month.

The details are still unfolding but so far we have been told that on 26 February six men escaped from the immigration detention centre in Pontianak (Kalimantan). The men were quickly recaptured and returned to the centre. One man is now dead and UNHCR reports that three others have been hospitalised, two with serious injuries — one is only 17 years old.

The examining doctor found evidence that Naroye had been beaten to death with a blunt object. Reports also note the discovery of wounds resembling cigarette burns and marks on the man's wrists where he had been bound.

Indonesian Detective Puji claimed Nekoyee and two others 'had their mouths sealed with thick tape, were beaten with a piece of wood, whipped with an electrical cord and given electric shocks'. The head of the detention centre, Ageng Pribadi, says the guards 'abused the victim until he died'.

Puji has also noted the involvement of Indonesian immigration department training officers and their cadets in the beatings.

Other incidents have been reported over many years in these centres and Amnesty International has urged Indonesia to enact a new Criminal Code that 'complies with international human rights law and standards and includes provisions explicitly prohibiting and punishing acts of torture'.

Although the attacks happened outside Australia, we are not innocent bystanders. Australian money is involved in funding Indonesian detention centres and both Labor and Coalition governments have supported the incarceration of asylum seekers there to prevent their travel by boat to Australia.

Back in 2001, in the month before the arrival of the Tampa refugees, then-Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock crowed about a stabilisation in the number of boats arriving to Australia.

The actual number of people arriving had reduced by only 34 that year (from 4175 down to 4141) but Ruddock claimed this as proof that his government's deterrence policies 'both in Australia and overseas' were working — including Indonesia's capture and detention of more than a thousand Australia bound asylum seekers. More than 10 years later, little has changed.

Labor governments have continued to prioritise deterrence measures over the development of better support and protection for asylum seekers and refugees in the region. And if the Coalition returns to power, Tony Abbott claims he will