We must count and account for deaths in immigration custody

Ali Ahmad Jafari, aged 26, collapsed and died in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre on June 20, 2013. Unsuccessful efforts were made to revive him. This death has been recorded under our Australian Border Deaths Database as a death in onshore immigration custody (case number 1589). Since 2000, we have recorded 62 deaths in immigration custodial settings.

The Australian government still does not count deaths in immigration custody under its National Deaths in Custody Monitoring Program (NDICMP), administered by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC).

Since October last year, the Border Crossing Observatory has been lobbying the AIC directly in a bid to get these deaths included within their annual monitoring and reporting through our Count Border Deaths Campaign. Not all deaths in immigration custody have been subject to a Coronial Inquiry which would also work to provide important information on, and accountability for these deaths.

Including deaths in immigration custodial settings in the AIC NDICMP would greatly increase the knowledge base of deaths that occur under the custody of Australian law enforcement officials, and would indicate that the deaths of non-citizens while under the care and control of government officials are being accorded the same significance as the deaths of Australian citizens.

The latest response we received from the AIC in February 2013 was that a proposal is currently being developed to start counting the deaths of people who die in Australian immigration detention centres or other Australian migration custodial settings in official deaths in custody statistics as part of a pilot program.

Our Count Border Deaths Campaign continues and you can take action by visiting our campaign page. Further, in response to the death of Ali Ahmad Jafari, Change.org has organised a petition calling on the Australian government Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, The Hon. Tony Burke MP to conduct a full inquiry into his death.

The Border Crossing Observatory has prepared two Research Briefs on deaths in immigration custody in Australia including an outline of the definition prepared by BOb’s Dr Leanne Weber and Professor Sharon Pickering on immigration custodial settings.

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