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.