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Australian official adds fuel to fire on abuse claims in detention camps

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March 2, 2001 


CANBERRA-(AP) - In another damning report on Australia's detention centers for illegal immigrants, a senior government official said Friday detainees had complained of racism and humiliation by staff.

John Taylor, a senior official in the government's ombudsman's office, said a 12-month investigation found detainees had lodged complaints against center management with the government.

Taylor warned continued neglect in the centers could create trouble makers for the community.

"I think there is a real risk that if people are not looked after at least as well as prisoners in jail, they will become disenchanted with Australian society, disenchanted with law and order and the rule of law in Australia, and will become a problem for future generations," Taylor told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) on Friday.

The warning comes after a report released Tuesday showed serious management failings and abuse of detainees at detention centers. That study led Australia's human rights commissioner to visit one center Wednesday to talk to detainees about their treatment.

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said he doubted the substance of Taylor's investigation or the allegations made against center staff.

"He (Taylor) doesn't look to see whether they (the claims) were substantial, or in some cases vexatious," Ruddock said on ABC radio.

The centers hold illegal migrants, mostly in remote locations, until their cases are investigated and they are either deported or granted refugee status and released. Thousands of illegal migrants have been detained for trying to sneak in to Australia, many of them from Asia and the Middle East.

Ruddock said it was a priority of the government to train detention center staff in cultural, safety and security issues.

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