New Zealand woman says guards at Sydney's Villawood detention centre used excessive force against her

A New Zealand mother-of-six shown in an online video being restrained on the ground at a Sydney detention centre says guards used excessive force against her.

She and others say oppressive conditions being newly imposed on women in immigration detention centres in Australia are escalating tensions.

The smartphone video taken by another detainee a week ago shows nine male guards around the woman, two holding her arms, as she's led to a punishment cell in the Villawood detention centre.

"It was intimidating, you know, I was a little scared," the 39-year-old woman of Brisbane said.

RNZ has agreed to call her "Jessie", as she feared being identified could jeopardise her appeal to get her visa back. She has been held at Villawood for 16 months.

The video shows her struggling and she ends up on the ground with at least three guards holding her.

"They tried to take me out the gate and I put my foot up on the gate, they didn't care they just dragged me out," Jessie said.

"I don't remember how I got onto the ground, but I know it was the men who did that."

Jessie said she was then cuffed, and despite agreeing to go peaceably - once out of sight of the camera - she was dragged to the cell where she was held for seven hours.

Australia's Department of Home Affairs issued a one-line statement: "All reasonable use of force, including the use of restraints, is undertaken within the law, appropriate guidelines, policy and procedures. All incidents in detention are appropriately reviewed."

The Refugee Action Coalition is calling for an inquiry, saying how the woman being manhandled showed what happened when guards could act with impunity.

A second woman detainee has predicted further trouble, due to the 40 or so women at Villawood being confined to their own compound since last week, away from male detainees.

"We don't want to be confined, we don't want to have to be around each other every single day where it causes dramas," said the 39-year-old Sydney woman, a mother of five who moved to Australia from Dargaville decades ago.

Women detainees have previously been generally reluctant to talk to RNZ and don't want their real names used.

Jessie said her run-in came after a guard blocked her from taking her lunch tray outside. She was finding the new makeshift dining area - set up in a small music room, after the orders to separate where the women and men ate ... too cramped, she said.

Shortly after, guards came into her room.

"Eight, nine of them in the house, this is a women-only house too. There was no women officers there, just the men ones."

The male guards did not allow her to use the toilet to get changed, so she had to get out of her pajama bottoms into a tracksuit in front of them, she said.

Not all the centre's guards - who are employed under a government contract with multinational Serco - were bad, but belittling treatment was common.

"All the girls were agitated and angry about being locked in. So I think that they think I was trying to cause a riot or something," Jessie said.

The Australian government earlier this year tried but failed to ban immigration detainees from having mobile phones.

The new restrictions in Villawood stop the women mixing with men, limiting or cutting off their access to education and recreation programmes, the library and shop.

It was sprung on them, the Sydney woman said.

"The treatment we're getting now is unfair. They're just a bunch of sexist pigs."

They called a brief hunger strike on Thursday.

The women and the Refugee Action Coalition dismissed the authorities' argument that the restrictions were to keep women safe, after complaints of harassment by male detainees, and as more men with serious criminal records were moved into Villawood in preparation for closing the Christmas Island detention centre, and other high-security centres later this year.

"Everyone gets along perfectly fine," said the Sydney woman, who has been at Villawood for four months.

The Department of Home Affairs did not answer RNZ's questions about the changes.

"It's a load of nonsense, I mean there's already a high-security area inside the main Villawood compound if that was necessary, but the truth is there is no necessity for women to be discriminated and isolated the way they are," Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition said.

The real problem was demonstrated by the mishandling of the Brisbane woman, he said.

"The guards are a law unto themselves. They have that power. For misdemeanours, for what's seen as bad behaviour, you get that kind of treatment, and actually there's plenty worse.

"There's plenty of examples of people being bashed and brutalised much worse than that. You get the arbitrary searches, arbitrary instructions - I mean, that's one of the things that constantly creates tensions."

Jessie said when another detainee assaulted her, she complained to police but nothing was done.

The Sydney woman said she was manhandled by guards when she was transferred to Villawood.

The women at Villawood estimated there were 20 New Zealand citizens in their compound, and said there were probably others at transit centres in Melbourne and Brisbane.

Officially, the number of New Zealand women in detention centres at the end of May was put at 17.

Jessie said she lost her visa after twice being imprisoned, for two months each time, for breaching a domestic violence order and stealing a car.

The Sydney woman said she had no criminal record, but was detained on "character grounds" when she returned to Australia from New Zealand earlier this year.



Eleven million-tonne iceberg looming over Greenland village is spotted from space

An iceberg that has drifted perilously close to a remote Greenland village is so big it can be seen from space.

The European Space Agency released an image overnight showing the giant iceberg just off the coast of Innaarsuit in northwestern Greenland.

CAPTION CORRECTS PHOTOGRAPHER BYLINE In this Thursday, July 12, 2018 photo, a view of an Iceberg, near the village Innarsuit, on the northwestern Greenlandic coast. Scientists have watched an iceberg four miles long break off from a glacier. The iceberg is allegedly grounded on the sea floor. Residents in houses near the shore are prepared for an evacuation. (Magnus Kristensen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
A view of an Iceberg, near the village Innarsui. Source: Associated Press

Dozens of residents were evacuated to higher ground last week due to concerns that the 11 million-tonne iceberg could break apart, creating high waves that could wash away coastal buildings.

The image captured July 9 by ESA's Sentinel-2 satellites also shows several other large icebergs in the vicinity.

Greenland broadcaster KNR reported that strong winds and elevated tides moved the iceberg northward, away from the harbour, over the weekend.

The satellite image, which was captured by Sentinel-2A on July 9, 2018, provided by European Space Agency esa on Tuesday, July 18, 2018 shows a huge iceberg perilously close to the village of Innaarsuit on the west coast of Greenland. If the berg breaks apart, waves resulting from the falling ice could wash away parts of the village. (esa via AP)
A huge iceberg perilously close to the village of Innaarsuit on the west coast of Greenland. Source: Associated Press

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Trump makes major U-turn after Putin meeting, saying he misspoke over Russian meddling in US election

Blistered by bipartisan condemnation of his embrace of a longtime US enemy, President Donald Trump sought today to "clarify" his public undermining of American intelligence agencies, saying he had misspoken when he said he saw no reason to believe Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

"The sentence should have been, 'I don't see any reason why I wouldn't, or why it wouldn't be Russia" instead of "why it would," Trump said, in a rare admission of error by the bombastic U.S. leader.

The US President has gone into full-blown damage control. Source: 1 NEWS

His comment came — amid rising rebuke by his own party — about 27 hours after his original, widely reported statement, which he made at a summit in Helsinki standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place," Trump said Tuesday. But he added, as he usually does, "It could be other people also. A lot of people out there. There was no collusion at all."

Moments earlier, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell issued a public reassurance to U.S. allies in NATO and Europe with whom Trump clashed during his frenzied Europe trip last week.

"The European countries are our friends, and the Russians are not," McConnell said.

Trump maintained Tuesday's summit with Putin went "even better" than his meeting with NATO allies.

That NATO reference carried an edge, too, since the barrage of criticism and insults he delivered in Brussels in London was hardly well-received. He dismissed it all with a new attack on an old target: the news media. He said his NATO meeting was "great" but he "had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way - the Fake News is going Crazy!"

In fact, the reaction back home has been immediate and visceral, among fellow Republicans as well as usual Trump critics. "Shameful," ''disgraceful," ''weak," were a few of the comments. Makes the U.S. "look like a pushover," said GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.

On Capitol Hill, top Republican leaders said they were open to slapping fresh sanctions on Russia but showed no signs of acting any time soon.

"Let's be very clear, just so everybody knows: Russia did meddle with our elections," said House Speaker Paul Ryan. "What we intend to do is make sure they don't get away with it again and also to help our allies."

In the Senate, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York called for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials to appear before Congress and tell exactly what happened during Trump's two-hour private session with Putin.

Schumer also urged the Senate to take up legislation to boost security for U.S. elections and to revive a measure passed earlier by the Judiciary Committee to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference.

But minority Democrats have few tools to push their priorities.

In the House, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi planned a vote today in support of the intelligence committee's findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

Senators had floated a similar idea earlier, but The No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said sanctions may be preferable to a nonbinding resolution that amounts to "just some messaging exercise."

Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the first step was to get Pompeo to appear, "hopefully" next week.

Trump's meeting with Putin in Helsinki was his first time sharing the international stage with a man he has described as an important U.S. competitor — but whom he has also praised a strong, effective leader.

His remarks, siding with a foe on foreign soil over his own government, was a stark illustration of Trump's willingness to upend decades of U.S. foreign policy and rattle Western allies in service of his political concerns. A wary and robust stance toward Russia has been a bedrock of his party's world view. But Trump made clear he feels that any acknowledgement of Russia's election involvement would undermine the legitimacy of his election.

Standing alongside Putin, Trump steered clear of any confrontation with the Russian, going so far as to question American intelligence and last week's federal indictments that accused 12 Russians of hacking into Democratic email accounts to hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016.

"I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.

"He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump said. That's the part he corrected today.

He told media he has “full faith in America’s great intelligence agencies”. Source: Breakfast