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Mentally ill locked up as an illegal immigrant

 
 
Reply Wed 9 Feb, 2005 12:59 am
In the news, a couple of days ago:

Quote:
Mentally ill Aussie in detention centre
Andrew McGarry
05feb05

A MENTALLY ill Australian woman spent 10 months in immigration detention, including extended periods in an isolation cell, after authorities failed to identify her as a missing person.

Cornelia Rau, a 39-year-old former Qantas flight attendant, was placed in detention last April after she was found by Queensland police in a psychotic state, apparently speaking German.
Ms Rau was released yesterday from Baxter detention centre, near Port Augusta in South Australia, and taken to Glenside psychiatric hospital in Adelaide after being identified by her family from photos of her in detention.

Refugee advocates claimed Ms Rau had been held in Baxter's Red One isolation compound, where her psychotic behaviour had distressed other detainees.

Her sister Chris said yesterday Cornelia had been a patient at the psychiatric unit at Manly Hospital in Sydney when she disappeared last March. "The thing she hated was being in hospital," Ms Rau said.

"I can only suppose she didn't identify herself because she didn't want to be put in a mental health facility, but she ended up being locked up in a far worse place."

Ms Rau, who came to Australia from Germany when she was 18 months old, was found by a group of Aborigines at Coen in north Queensland on March 31 last year.

They were concerned about her disturbed, psychotic state and took her to the police for her own safety.

She did not identify herself to police and spoke only in German. The police assumed she was an illegal immigrant and handed her over to immigration officials on April 5.

She was held at the Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre for several months. She was transferred to Baxter four months ago.

The Immigration Department said it had gone to great lengths to establish the identity of Ms Rau.

"All the information provided by the woman led the department to believe she was an unlawful non-citizen," a departmental spokesman said. "At no time did she state she was a permanent (Australian) citizen."

The spokesman said the department contacted the police missing persons registry in Queensland, but not in NSW.

The governments of several countries where it was believed Ms Rau might have lived were also contacted, the spokesman said.

Her family declared her missing in August last year after she failed to make contact.

In November, NSW police appealed for help in locating Cornelia, saying she had been missing since March 17 last year.

About the same time, detainees in Baxter raised the alarm, sending messages to advocates that there was a woman in the centre who was very sick and needed help.

They believed she was being locked in for 18-20 hours a day and that she was constantly crying and calling to be let out.

One message from a fellow detainee posted on the refugee advocate website safecom.org on January 24, said Ms Rau appeared to be "very, very sick".

"She takes her clothes off and wanders around in this all-male compound," the account read. "She screams obscenities, throws food at other detainees and smashes things."

It took until Thursday night for her family to identify her.

Chris Rau said her family didn't want to seek scapegoats for what had happened to her sister -- they hoped only that people could learn from the story.

"The two groups who were kind to Cornelia in all this time were the two most downtrodden groups in society -- the Aboriginal people in Cairns and the refugees in Baxter," she said. "There's an irony in that".

The Immigration Department claimed yesterday Ms Rau had been under mental supervision at all times.

"A number of medical assessments were conducted by healthcare professionals, including doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists," the departmental spokesman said.

Labor immigration spokesman Laurie Ferguson said the matter was of great concern and called for an inquiry.

"It's pretty dangerous if you have Alzheimer's disease or you speak a second language right now," Mr Ferguson said, adding that Queensland Police and the federal Government had questions to answer.

Refugee advocate Pamela Curr, who spoke to Ms Rau at Baxter last month, said authorities should have been alerted earlier.

"Her English was fine," Ms Curr said.

"She told me then she really wasn't in touch with reality, but there was a moment of clarity when she just wanted to get out of Baxter.

"I spoke to a detainee two days ago and he said her English was so good he thought she was an Aussie girl."
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Feb, 2005 01:03 am
Meanwhile (she had been officially missed by her family since August, 2004, btw)



Quote:
Public Rau inquiry rejected
By Maria Hawthorne
February 08, 2005
From: AAP
THE Howard Government has refused demands for a fully transparent, public inquiry into how mentally ill Australian woman Cornelia Rau was locked up as an illegal immigrant.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone today said former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer would oversee a six-week private inquiry into the case.
He would carry out his work in private, but the inquiry's findings would be made public, she said.

Labor and other political parties have said the Government owes taxpayers a fully independent, public inquiry into Ms Rau's case.

Senator Vanstone could not say today if Mr Palmer would have the power to compel witnesses to give evidence, including private contractors who run the Baxter detention centre where Ms Rau was held.

Ms Rau spent four months at Baxter, in South Australia, after being moved there from a Queensland prison where she was held for six months.

She was moved to Baxter in October last year, despite her family listing her as missing in August.

Senator Vanstone refused to say today if she would apologise to Ms Rau if her department was found to have let her down.

"We should establish the facts of this matter and when we've established the facts, we'll be able to consider what should happen," she told reporters.

"It is a very sad case. I don't know if there is more Commonwealth officials could have done."

Ms Rau, 39, a German-born Australian resident who suffers from schizophrenia, was placed in detention after authorities mistook her for an illegal immigrant.

Other Baxter detainees and refugee advocates have claimed she had to be dragged screaming into her cell at night and was often seen sitting naked eating dirt.

Senator Vanstone said she had participated in a video conference today with people involved in Ms Rau's day-to-day care and they advised some claims about her behaviour, including that she ate dirt, were wrong.

Announcing the terms of reference, Senator Vanstone said the inquiry would be held in private but its findings would be made public after it reported back by March 24.

She rejected suggestions that the lack of legal powers for Mr Palmer made the inquiry a recipe for a cover-up.

"I haven't yet had personally a one-on-one discussion with Mr Palmer about how we want to conduct this," Senator Vanstone said.

"I, to be honest, have not imagined in my wildest dreams that there would be any government bureaucrat from any level who would not be willing to speak to and participate with this inquiry.

"I am satisfied, I can assure you, everyone who is a Commonwealth official and the contractors will be co-operating with this inquiry."

She said the terms of reference were broad and would look at both mental health and detention policies, and the sequence of events which led to Ms Rau being held in detention.

It would also look at the circumstances, actions and procedures which saw her remain unidentified for so long, despite being listed as a missing person.

Senator Vanstone said Ms Rau had presented herself credibly as a German citizen on holidays in Australia.

"Everything indicated what she was saying was true and that she was someone who had perhaps overstayed and was obfuscating us some details for reasons which weren't sure," Senator Vanstone said.

Senator Vanstone said she had not considered whether she would be called to front the inquiry in person.

"I haven't even thought of that - it hasn't been the case in the past," she said.

"I will turn my mind to whether that is the case."
Source
0 Replies
 
Mr Stillwater
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Feb, 2005 02:58 am
Yeah, we have been kicking this one over on another thread Walter. Still, it gives me a chance to say what a total disgrace our present govt is.

Even if there was the chance she WAS a visa-overstayer (the most common form of 'illegal') when it is so obvious that some-one is SO ill that they can't care for themselves you don't chuck them into a fu*king prison!! This is a nation that used to PRIDE itself on treating human beings with fairness and dignity (when they could). Everyone is now a potential threat, everyone is now subject to new 'controls' - poor fellah my country.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Feb, 2005 05:29 am
Here ya go, Walter:

http://www.able2know.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=45094&highlight=
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Feb, 2005 10:47 am
Missed that, sorry Embarrassed (and can't follow it up consequently, due to McTag's visit).
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Feb, 2005 05:16 am
Not to worry, Walter.
0 Replies
 
Wilso
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Feb, 2005 06:09 am
Mr Stillwater wrote:
Yeah, we have been kicking this one over on another thread Walter. Still, it gives me a chance to say what a total disgrace our present govt is.

Even if there was the chance she WAS a visa-overstayer (the most common form of 'illegal') when it is so obvious that some-one is SO ill that they can't care for themselves you don't chuck them into a fu*king prison!! This is a nation that used to PRIDE itself on treating human beings with fairness and dignity (when they could). Everyone is now a potential threat, everyone is now subject to new 'controls' - poor fellah my country.



Well said. It's a sad state of affairs indeed.
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