Yongah detention centre WA
Image credit: Rebecca Lemay/AAP

There were allegedly no medical services onsite at Yongah Hill detention centre where, overnight, rioting followed the discovery of a detainee who had attempted suicide. 

Advocates with knowledge of the detention centre told Crikey Yongah Hill has no onsite medical services on weekends. 

There have been scrambled reports about what happened last night, with early reporting from AAP stating a man had died. A spokesperson for Australian Border Force confirmed to Crikey was not the case.

“There has not been a death at Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre,” they said. “A detainee from Yongah Hill IDC was taken to hospital last night and is currently receiving appropriate medical care.” 

We asked whether there were medical staff present at the detention centre over the weekend and if so, whether that was the standard, or an isolated incident but ABF would provide no further detail. 

The spokesperson said all detainees and staff were safe and accounted for and there have been no reported injuries, after “a disturbance by a small number of detainees”.

Crikey understands advocates have long been complaining about the lack of weekend medical care available in a centre of Yongah Hill’s size. The centre holds roughly 300 men; the nearest hospital is Northam health services, around five minutes’ drive away. Crikey also understands that the man now in hospital has a serious and painful medical ailment that had contributed to feelings of depression. 

ABF told Crikey it was considering referring those involved in the “disturbance” to the police.

“We are committed to ensuring the safety of those in immigration detention and will not tolerate violent and aggressive behaviour within IDCs. We will take all appropriate steps to stamp out such activity and if criminal offences have occurred, they will be referred to police.” 

According to a Melbourne-based advocate, who is close to many men in the centre, the irony of the response to the riot — many detainees were handcuffed — was not lost on detainees, with one apparently saying: “They can find 150 handcuffs on the weekend, but not a doctor.”

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW