A Somali woman, Ms Rukhiyo Mohamed, has commenced a civil action against the Commonwealth and Australasian Correctional Management Pty Ltd (ACM) (the company that operates the Villawood Detention Centre), for damages for assault and negligence. Ms Mohamed claims that while she was held at the Villawood Detention Centre she was unlawfully assaulted by an ACM officer, suffering head injuries and requiring hospitalisation.
Ms Mohamed had recently arrived in Australia from war-torn Somalia where she had been the victim of extreme violence. She contends that the assault at Villawood left her traumatised with ongoing psychiatric effects. She has subsequently been granted Australian residence on humanitarian grounds.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is representing Ms Mohamed in the proceedings. PIAC solicitor Patricia McEniery said:
“Refugees have rights, which our present Federal Government seems to forget. Our client, like every asylum seeker in detention, had the right to basic standards of safety and care. The Commonwealth’s own Immigration Detention Standards dictate that refugees be treated with respect and dignity. These standards appear to have been disregarded in relation to our client.”
Ms McEniery went on:
“The case arises against a background of ongoing complaints about the conditions of detention centres and the treatment of refugees held in detention. It will deal with the duty of care that both the Department and ACM owe to refugees detained in custody.
Refugees are amongst the most vulnerable in our community due to their past treatment, their unfamiliarity with Australia and their lack of resources. It is important that safeguards like the Immigration Detention Standards, that are a crucial part of the contractual arrangement between the Dept of Immigration and ACM for the management of detention centres, are strictly complied with.”
ACM and the Commonwealth are now required to file a defence.
MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,
Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169