Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Archival Rescue 39 ~ Aus detention

Dispelling detention's bogeymen in real wild world;
Freedom frightens little Naomi
By Lee Glendinning May 25, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

Once outside the confines of Villawood Detention Centre Naomi Leong, 3, cried for much of the night.

Everything about her release from detention into the outside world was so disorienting. She was distressed by the sight of so many cars, confused by the trees.

She woke after a shallow sleep and whispered to her mother, Virginia, that she had dreamt of puppy dogs.

Soon running around outside and eating barbecue chips, Naomi appeared vivacious, but would often retreat, hiding behind huge terracotta pots while Ms Leong waited for their visa forms to be processed.

In the late afternoon at Parramatta Park she was mostly uninterested in the other children who wanted to play with her, preferring to sit alone in the rose garden.

Advocates for immigration detainees and those who have observed Naomi say her behaviour tends to mirror her mother's.

When Virginia Leong became distressed inside detention, Naomi would bang her head against the wall, and exist in an almost trance-like state, often lying alone in a room for hours.

With her mother clearly still in shock yesterday, psychiatrists said the pair would be haunted by their time in detention and would suffer continuing problems.

Dr Louise Newman, who assessed Naomi in detention at Villawood, said it was likely she could suffer post-traumatic stress and would need long-term support to recover. "The sad and tragic thing of this case, I think, is this child has already suffered."

Dr Michael Dudley, a psychiatrist who has examined Naomi and her mother, said their future well-being would be dependent on permanent residency. "They're still non-citizens, so they can't get on with their lives, and that is a major problem … so they continue to have high levels of insecurity and fear."

Virginia Leong had been inside Villawood since 2001, when she had been caught trying to leave Australia with a false passport. At the time she was two months' pregnant, and because Naomi was born in detention the child has been deemed stateless.

The pair were granted bridging visas on Monday and are now staying with a friend and former detainee in Parramatta.

Yesterday Ms Leong's visa was upgraded so she can work and obtain Medicare benefits. However, Naomi remains on a visa without access to Medicare.

Ms Leong's lawyer, Michaela Byers, believes they have a strong chance of staying in Australia.

Ms Leong hopes she can carve out a future here, and have access to the seven-year-old son she has not seen for four years.

"Being outside is a dream come true … I just want to be healthy, and happy," she said.

"I feel good. Actually, I feel fantastic. Freedom, you know, it's mine."


Post a Comment

<< Home