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Hamidi case a warning to Government on detention centre duties

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Media Release

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One of the lawyers responsible for negotiating a settlement between a formerly detained refugee and the Commonwealth Government says that the Government should heed the lessons from the case or risk facing further litigation.

Ben Phi from leading law firm Slater and Gordon said that his client, Abdul Hamidi, endured an ordeal within Australian immigration detention centres that should never have been allowed to occur.

“When Mr Hamidi arrived in Australia in 2000, he informed the authorities that he had previously been subjected to torture in Iran. However, the Government did not believe him, and he spent the next four and-a-half years in various detention centres. Refusing to accept that he was a torture victim, the Government failed to provide him with adequate psychiatric care,” Mr Phi said.

“Our client’s serious mental illness was evident by his many incidents of violent self-harm, which included drinking chemicals, cutting himself with a razor and hitting his own head with a rock.”

The Federal Government settled Mr Hamidi’s claim for compensation in July this year without any admission of liability.

Mr Phi said the case was indicative of a more fundamental failure by the Commonwealth to comply with its duty of care when processing asylum seekers.

“Mr Hamidi’s experiences are not isolated incidents. We act for more than a dozen other former detainees who have suffered significant psychiatric harm as a result of the Government’s failure to provide adequate care.

“Slater and Gordon has had to establish a specialist unit to investigate the large number of claims of harm within detention centres.”

Mr Phi said that the government had a legal as well as ethical obligation to monitor and maintain the health of people who had been put in detention centres, and to ensure detention periods are not prolonged.

“In 2005, the Federal Court held that the Commonwealth owed a duty of care to people held in immigration detention. The Commonwealth is required to provide access to mental health services that are comparable to those available in the broader community.

“The Commonwealth knows or ought to know that refugees are at high risk of psychiatric injury. It is common sense that placing such people in detention centres, for an indefinite period of time, without access to specialist mental health services, will significantly increase their risk of further injury.

“There is clear evidence of a strong causal relationship between long-term indefinite detention and serious mental harm. That link needs to be mitigated through faster processing and improved access to medical care.

“Our client is a man who fled to Australia after suffering at the hands of an oppressive regime in another country. He should have been able to rely on humane treatment while in the care of our government.

“I hope Mr Hamidi’s ordeal leads to a lot of soul searching within the immigration bureaucracy. If the abuses that our client went through are ignored or overlooked, then this case will simply be the tip of an iceberg.”

For information regarding Immigration Detention Claims, please click on the following link /class-actions/current-class-actions/immigration-detention-claims.           

Established 76 years ago, Slater and Gordon has built a powerful reputation as a law firm which fights for the best outcomes for everyday Australians.  Today Slater and Gordon offers its broad range of legal services at more locations than any other law firm in the country, delivering affordable legal advice and justice to more Australians.