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Immigration Officials Accused Of Mistreating, Ignoring Rau
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 6, 2005

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA--Investigations into the ten month detention of an Australian women with schizophrenia are revealing a number of mistakes and alleged abuses within the country's immigration system.

The former head of the Australian Federal Police, Mick Palmer, is leading an official investigation to determine why Australian citizen Cornelia Rau was held as a suspected illegal immigrant at Baxter detention center for four months and in a Brisbane jail for six months.

The 39-year-old Rau, who has schizophrenia, walked away from a Sydney psychiatric ward last March. When police a thousand miles away picked her up two weeks later, Rau spoke to them only in German and told them her name was Anna Schmidt or Anna Brotmeyer.

After finding no records of her in Germany or Australia, police suspected Rau of being an illegal immigrant and turned her over to immigration officials who then sent her to Baxter detention center.

She was finally released this February after family members identified her from news reports.

Last week, former detainees at Baxter and the jail appeared on the Four Corners television program accusing staff of mistreating Rau and putting her in solitary confinement for two months.

"She had no concept of where she was and she couldn't understand why they were being so mean to her," said one former detainee. "She cried all day."

Two of those interviewed said that Rau had revealed to them and to at least one official that she could speak English and that she was, in fact, Cornelia Rau.

"Oh yeah?, and so who are you going to be tomorrow then?" the official allegedly said in response.

The program also accused immigration officials of ignoring recommendations from a Baxter psychologist that Rau be sent to a women's detention center and that she not be placed in solitary confinement. When she was eventually transferred to Port Augusta Hospital, three months after a preliminary diagnosis of schizophrenia, she was taken naked with only a sheet to cover her.

A research brief from the Parliamentary Library released April 1 suggested that Rau may be entitled to "substantial" compensation if it is determined that she was improperly held for those 300 days. The Migration Act allows immigration officials to detain a person only if there is "reasonable" suspicion that the person is an illegal immigrant.

Related:
"Cornelia Rau was abused, witnesses claim" (Australian Associated Press)
"Rau 'sent to Baxter against advice'" (Australian Associated Press)
"Rau told fellow prisoner her 'secret' name" (Australian Associated Press)

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