Inquiry to be held into Australian immigration detention of Australian woman

Monday, February 7, 2005

AUSTRALIA — Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced an Inquiry into the "very regrettable incident" of a mentally ill Australian woman being detained for months and allegedly maltreated by the country's own Immigration Department.

The woman, Cornelia Rau, still insisted she was German Anna Schmidt, according to her sister Christine yesterday. "I think it will take a long time for her to stabilise," she said. "At the moment she doesn't accept that she is Cornelia and she doesn't want to see us."

"She is still insisting her name is Anna Schmidt and that her passport is in Baxter and that she wants to return to Germany."

Refugee advocate Pamela Curr claims Ms Rau was held in isolation for 18 to 20 hours a day in Baxter's 'Red One' isolation facility, where she was allegedly kept in simulated daylight for 24 hours a day.

Her family had only discovered her whereabouts through a refugee-initiated effort to identify the woman, authorities having failed to connect the unidentified detainee with her missing person file, held by New South Wales Police since August last year.

After her family recognised media reports of her on Thursday, and contacted the police, her photo was emailed to the Baxter compound and her identity confirmed.

The schizophrenic woman had spent six months in a Queensland prison, according to Channel Nine News, as well as at least two months in immigration detention, according to various sources. Earlier reports had her being handed over to immigration authorities over 10 months ago, with only five days spent in custody with Queensland Police.

Ms Rau is presently recuperating in hospital.


National Nine News. "PM orders inquiry into woman's detention" — National Nine News, 6 February, 2005

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