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Coroner's Report into the death of Puongtong Simaplee

Commission Commission – General

24 April 2003

Coroner's
Report into the death of Puongtong Simaplee

The
NSW Coroner's report into the death of Puongtong Simaplee in Villawood Detention
Centre on 26 September 2001, confirms human rights concerns about the treatment
of women who are trafficked in Australia, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru
Goward and Human Rights Commissioner Sev Ozdowski said today.

The
Coroner expressed concerns about Ms Simaplee's illegal entry into Australia (as
a trafficked person) and said "it would be hoped that the law enforcement
agencies will use whatever means are necessary to eradicate this practice and
prosecute those responsible". The Commission heartily endorses those sentiments.

Coroner Carl
Milovanovich described the practice of trafficking as "illegal and morally
offensive", a view undoubtedly shared by most Australians. But the Coroner
went on to observe "it would seem that there is evidence that young women
are enticed to this country on the premise that they will be provided with work
and earn a good income, only to be exploited and forced to work in brothels".

"If the
coroner is correct, and there is growing evidence that this is the case, then
it is critical that the Government move to develop a multi-agency approach to
this problem that does more than deport the women (and thus the evidence) concerned,"
said Commissioner Goward.

Dr
Ozdowski expressed his concern that: "The Coroner's examination of the health
care of Ms Simpalee highlights the tragic consequences that can arise when detention
takes a higher priority than the health needs of individuals."

The
Commissioners supported the recommendations of the Coroner to improve medical
record-keeping at Villawood Detention centre and that detention centre staff should
not be responsible for vital medical observations in a non clinical setting. If
the detention centre does not allow for medical observations in a clinical setting,
then consideration should be given to having the detainee hospitalised.

They
also agreed with the Coroner's support for DIMIA and ACM facilities to establish
a dialogue with organisations such as Project Respect which might help to identify,
assess and provide appropriate medical, community and translator services to women
who might be victims of trafficking.

At
the time of the death of Puongtong Simaplee, Australia had not signed the Protocol
to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children,
which supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Crime. Australia
has since signed the protocol and even though it is not yet in force it is a statement
of Australia's obligations to trafficked persons, especially women and children.

"It
is to be hoped that in the future this Protocol will protect the interests and
needs of women like Simaplee and that her sad case is one never to be repeated,"
said Commissioner Goward.

Media
contact:
Pru Goward 0417 458 118

Last
updated 28 April 2003.