Kiwi dies following Australian detention centre 'scuffle'

Rob Peihopa (Facebook/supplied)
Rob Peihopa (Facebook/supplied)

A detainee in Sydney's Villawood Immigration Detention Centre says a Kiwi man's death can be blamed on the stress of being held "in limbo".

Rob Peihopa, in his 40s, died around 10pm last night. The circumstances surrounding his death are unclear at this stage.

Labour MP Kelvin Davis, who has in the past visited Kiwis being held in immigration detention centres across the ditch, was notified by phone at 3am this morning.

 "I was rung by the people from the group 501 Hikoi around Australia," says Mr Davis. "They had been contacted by a detainee in Villawood to say that a New Zealander had died -- apparently there was a scuffle."

501 Hikoi is a Maori group opposed to Australia's tough line on migrants.

"They suspect -- these are the detainees talking -- that the guy might have had a heart attack," says Mr Davis.

"They did say the police were investigating -- they were disappointed that the authorities wouldn't say a karakia for the guy that had passed away. That's really all I know."

Kiwi man Vaelua Lagaaia, a fellow detainee and friend of Mr Peihopa, told Newshub conditions in the detention centre were to blame for his death.

"In here bro, we're like ducks in a pond, us Kiwi fellas and the girls. We're all calm and collected on the outside, but on the inside we're stressing hard. In my opinion that probably was one of the major factors of what's happened to him."

Mr Lagaaia says Mr Davis' comments there was a "scuffle" was just "speculation".

"All I know is that a couple of the boys said the bro just collapsed and had a heart attack. He was just lying there and they called the ambulance and that took a while to come. Then one of the officers tried to administer CPR, you know, and unfortunately it didn't work, bro. He passed on."

Mr Lagaaia said he, and many others who had been in prison before coming to Villawood, had seen their health deteriorate.

"The stress levels here are just unreal -- more than jail, bro. It's crazy. It's all in the mind."

A spokesperson for 501 Hikoi said there was a rumour Mr Peihopa's body was found "outside a unit in a blind spot".

"His wife was inconsolable and unable to talk when she was given the news of her husband's death," they told Newshub.

"Even if he died of natural causes, his family have been robbed from having time with their loved one over a visa cancellation. If they've been to prison, they've already paid their dues."

Villawood Immigration Detention Centre is a facility in Sydney where people likely to be deported are held for processing.

Mr Davis says tension at the centre is growing because those being held "don't know what's going on" or how long they're going to be held.