Overdose death at Villawood detention centre

An African immigration detainee was found dead in his room in Hotham Compound, Villawood detention centre, around 9.00am this morning, Friday 30 June.  

It is believed the man died from a drug overdose. It is understood that the man was a humanitarian refugee, who has a wife and family in Sydney, but whose permanent visa had been cancelled because he had breached covid restrictions. 

The man was one of those immigration detainees who was released at the end of 2022 due to a High Court decision, but who was re-detained early this year, after Labor changed the law.

For many of the detainees, the overdose death was an ‘”accident waiting to happen.” One Villawood detainee told the Refugee Action Coalition that “it is surprising that drug deaths are not more common in here, given how easy it is to obtain drugs in Villawood”. 

“Drugs are rife in Villawood, there is nothing that you can’t get inside the detention centre,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, “Drugs are regarded as just another way of maintaining a more manageable and compliant detention population.

“Prolonged immigration detention creates the circumstances in which drug use becomes more common. This responsibility for this needless death lies with the immigration minister,” said Rintoul. 

The Department of Home Affairs and detention medical provider, International Health and Medical Services Pty Ltd (IHMS), are already the subject of court proceedings regarding the suicide death of a detainee in Villawood in 2019.

In that case it is alleged that both Home Affairs and IHMS had seriously neglected the mental health of the detainee who took his own life.

“There are obviously similar considerations in a case of an overdose death,” said Ian Rintoul.

“There needs to be a full inquiry not just into the immediate cause of death, but an inquiry that deals with the supply of drugs in Villwood and circumstances of this man’s detention. From everything we know, the man should not have been in immigration detention.”

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has said many times that the government is committed to “risk-based immigration detention policies”, and that “people should be living in the community if they do not pose a risk”. 

“Section 501 of the Migration Act should be repealed.  It allows explicit discrimination and extra-judicial punishment just because people are not Australian citizens. Now it has inflicted a death sentence; for what?”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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