The Guardian October 29, 2003


Government sued for negligence and child abuse

The Department of Immigration and the private company 
contracted to run Australia's immigration detention centres are 
to be sued for damages because of the treatment of a child held 
in the Villawood detention centre in south-west Sydney. Eight-
year old Shayan Badrale was locked up in the centre for 17 
months. During that time he witnessed acts of violence and 
suicide attempts and became so traumatised he stopped drinking, 
eating and speaking.

The action is being taken on behalf of Shayan by his father, 
Saeed, in the NSW Supreme Court where they will seek unspecified 
damages from the Immigration Department and the US-based private 
prison company Australasian Correctional Management. The actions 
of the Immigration Minister at the time, Philip Ruddock, are sure 
to be raised in the case.

Ruddock is now Attorney-General and is currently trying to place 
even more severe restrictions on asylum seekers having access to 
Australia's courts to appeal when their application for a visa is 
rejected by the Government. Clearly Ruddock has maintained his 
role in the Government's vicious immigration regime.

Shayan's treatment was first brought to the nation's attention by 
the ABC's Four Corners program. In 2002 the then President 
of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Alice Erh 
Soon Tay, found that the Howard Government had "failed to treat 
Shayan with humanity and respect for the dignity of the human 
person and/or in a manner appropriate to his age" and that the 
Government had thus breached its obligations under the UN 
Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Government is also trying to overturn a Family Court ruling 
of last June that ordered the release of five siblings who were 
being held at the Baxter detention centre in South Australia.

That decision was an important blow against the inhuman manda-
tory detention of asylum seekers and could open the way for the 
release of the more than 100 children currently locked up in 
detention centres in Australia.

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