[ 07. May 2005 ]

Australia: Detainee Dies in Darwin Harbour

On 28th of April 2005 Muhammed Heri, 37, died after being detained on his boat for a week, along with his 10 crew. This is the 2nd death in two years in Darwin Harbour. This is the 13th death in Immigration Detention in Australia since December 2000.


After 23 year old Mansur La Ibu died suddenly at 3.30am in 2003, recommendations were made to detain fishermen at the Coonawarra facility in Darwin. According to Senator McCrossin this $9.6 million dollar centre is being spent maintained at a cost of $80,000 a year and questions why fishermen are not being cared for there. (ABC News Online)

"Instead they are still being forced to stay on their boats, living in confined spaces with no means of communication." says Pamela Cur of the ASRC. " During the Coronial Inquiry into the death of Mansur La Ibu, evidence was given that 6 men were sleeping in an area 3 feet high by 5 feet long and 4 feet wide with no toilet facilities and that the only way they can attract attention is to cut their lines and look like they may be attempting to escape."

Barefoot Marine is the company holding the contract to provide food and services to the fishermen imprisoned on their boats in the harbour. Senator Scullion in May 2002 confirmed that the company, Barefoot Marine, of which he was director, has a contract with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority in Darwin. He has also admitted he obtained a stipend from the company two weeks after being sworn into office, which the Constitution prohibits. (ABC News Online)

Currently there are 90 Indonesian fishermen being detained in quarantine on 14 boats in Darwin. There are concerns that unaccompanied minors could be among this group.

At the coronial inquiry into the death of Mansur La Ibu, The Coroner said. "However, matters of high principle are involved for the deceased was held by Federal Government agencies for some weeks against his will, as a virtual prisoner without charges being preferred against him, without trial and without access to judicial review. In my view, such a state of affairs is to be deprecated. Furthermore, the standard of such detention in the case of the deceased is also to be deprecated; to keep seven men on a vessel such as the "Yamdena" for some weeks where their only shelter (and sleeping accommodation) is a small box the size referred to in the evidence of Senior Constable Sandry is unacceptable. Accordingly, I recommend that where detained crew members of vessels are not charged with any offence, they be repatriated home as soon as reasonably practicable." (

With 13 people dying in detention in less than 5 years, government claims of excellent fulltime medical facilities are in question.

This article was published first by Pamela Curr, ASRC Campaign Coordinator, on 1st of May 2005 on