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2nd refugee dies in six weeks in Australian detention center

(AFP) – A man has died at a Sydney immigration remand center, the second death in less than two months, raising concerns about conditions in Australia’s onshore detention network.

The man was believed to be an Iraqi asylum seeker who took his own life at the Villawood Immigration Detention Center late Monday, refugee advocate Ian Rintoul told AFP.

Australian immigration officials confirmed his death Tuesday but did not release further details, saying only that the matter was under investigation by government agencies and the state coroner.

“People (inside Villawood) said he had been quite depressed and hadn’t been coming out of his room,” Rintoul said of the detainee.

The latest death came six weeks after a male detainee, reportedly from Sierra Leone, died at Villawood. Rintoul said he was also an asylum seeker and was believed to have committed suicide.

Australia has a mandatory detention policy for illegal immigrants, including for minor offences like visa overstays.

Human rights groups have warned about self-harm at Australia’s onshore and offshore remand centers, saying detainees were struggling with mental health issues amid long detention times that could last for years.

Government officials last month denied there was a hunger strike across the onshore remand center network over conditions at the facilities, adding that detainees were given quality food, medical care, and were allowed activities.

Canberra has tightened its visa rules in recent years, requiring foreign nationals be sent home if they have served a jail term of 12 months or more.

The foreign nationals are held in migration centers such as Villawood before being deported.

Australia also runs an offshore detention camp on the remote Pacific island of Nauru to hold asylum seekers who have tried to reach the country by boat. Another camp on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island has been shuttered, although hundreds of asylum seekers and refugees remain in transition centers.

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