Monday, February 07, 2005

Anna Schmidt

Just doing the scrapbook thing. As one does. You know, when one is cataloging the decline of humanity quietly to oneself. In case anyone is visiting and you're not sure what a detention centre is; Australia has "camps". To keep people in.

Baxter Detention Centre
February 7, 2005 - 8:06AM - SMH

A refugee advocate today said Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone knew for 10 months that a mentally ill Australian woman was locked up in immigration detention.

The federal government has promised an inquiry into how Cornelia Rau came to be locked up at South Australia's Baxter detention centre, despite being listed as a missing person.

She spent six months in a Queensland jail before being sent to Baxter, where she was held for four months after telling authorities she was a German woman named Anna Schmidt.

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre spokeswoman Pamela Curr today said she believed Senator Vanstone knew about Ms Rau's case for 10 months...

... Ms Curr said Ms Rau's case was not unique, with many other asylum seekers being refused medical treatment despite being suicidal and depressed.

"What happened to Cornelia is not unique," she said.


Cornelia's situation became known when other concerned Baxter detainees mentioned her presence at the center to refugee advocates. That it took 10 months for the situation to leak out sort of points to how tenuous the connections are between asylum seekers inside and advocacy connections "outside".

Cornelia was not trying to immigrate to Australia. She grew up here.

The evolution of the immigration center to the detention center as we know it today in Australia is a long story, perhaps beginning with Australia's first convict importations two centuries ago. In the 1950's and 60's a policy of cultural "enrichment" ecouraging immigration from European/Mediterranean countries (Italy, Greece and France) saw the immigration center again in action, as simple places with bad food and corrugated iron huts. By the mid 70's they'd all but dwindled out but were put to use again in the later 70's and then 80's with an influx of refugee seekers fleeing war and famine; Vietnam, Lebanon, the Phillipines, numerous other places of havoc and despotic regime.

In recent years, the Australian immigration center has become a razor wire enclosed detention centre patrolled by armed security guards. The name shift says it all, in the 1960's these camps were known as "immigration" centres now they are "detention" centres. These centres are not part of Australia's prison system, they are a separate camp system used primarily to "hold" asylum seekers before, more often then not these days, deportation. It appears their use has mutated yet again.

Cornelia/Anna's story is intriguing, if disturbing.

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