Serco to blame for Kiwi death in detention - mother


The mother of a New Zealander who died in a Sydney detention centre has accused the Government of sitting on its hands and not looking after its citizens in Australian detention centres.

Hera Peihopa believes her son Rob Peihopa, 42, died in a fight, and is blaming private prison operator Serco for his death.

Mr Peihopa died at Villawood in early April, and initial reports suggested he died of a heart attack.

He had served two years in prison for his part in a police chase and was fighting deportation at the end of his sentence, so he could stay close to family in Australia.

His mother Hera told The Nation programme that she was initially told her son collapsed after a visit to the gym, but a coroner had since told her further investigation was needed.

"When I saw his body three days after he died I saw evidence of a fight. He had injuries on his face, bruising and he had injuries behind his head."

She suspected he had been attacked by a group, but had been told by police the detention centre's security camera system did not adequately capture the incident.

"I blame Serco. They're the security company. They're responsible for our boys."

However, Ms Peihopa also says the Australian Government should be more understanding of the detainees who appeal.

"With the detainees I really believe that any appeals that they put forward should be considered," she says.

"If they've got good family reasons why they should be here [in Australia] they should be given some consideration, not just totally overlook those long connections."

Ms Peihopa says the New Zealand government has contacted her to explain the procedures she can follow and how they work, but added she does not feel supported.

"I've not found them very helpful to me at all."

Serco's long-term contract on Mt Eden prison in Auckland was cut short by Corrections in July last year following weeks of revelations about prison fight clubs, access to contraband and poor inmate behaviour.

Ms Peihopa described her son as a "compassionate person".

Australia has been criticised for tough new immigration laws that allow it to deport any non-citizen who has served a sentence of 12 months or more, or failed a character test.

The rules have caught out many New Zealanders who have lived in Australia for years and no longer have roots in New Zealand.