'Illegal' German-born Australian detained

4th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

4 February 2005, SYDNEY - A mentally troubled Australian citizen who spoke to police in German was mistaken for an illegal immigrant and locked up for 10 months with asylum seekers in an immigration detention centre, officials admitted Friday. Cornelia Rau, 39, has been released from Baxter detention centre in South Australia and is in an Adelaide psychiatric hospital awaiting a reunion with her family. Rau, a former flight attendant with Australian national carrier Qantas, came to Australia from Germany w

4 February 2005

SYDNEY - A mentally troubled Australian citizen who spoke to police in German was mistaken for an illegal immigrant and locked up for 10 months with asylum seekers in an immigration detention centre, officials admitted Friday.

Cornelia Rau, 39, has been released from Baxter detention centre in South Australia and is in an Adelaide psychiatric hospital awaiting a reunion with her family.

Rau, a former flight attendant with Australian national carrier Qantas, came to Australia from Germany when she was a baby. She is a permanent resident in Australia.

She was found by Aborigines in far north Queensland in March last year, a few weeks after absconding from a psychiatric hospital in Sydney. She had no identification, gave false names, and was uncooperative.

Police, hearing Rau speak German, sought advice from German diplomats, but they were unable to verify her identity. An appeal published in German newspapers was also no help in establishing her identity.

The Greens' Kerry Nettle, a member of the federal parliament, said Cornelia's parents had reported their daughter missing. But because Rao gave false names police and immigration officials could not find her on the missing persons' register.

They classed her as an asylum seeker.

"The woman's circumstances were very unusual," a spokesman for the Immigration Department said. "We pursued a number of lines of inquiry in Australia and overseas in an effort to identify her. All of the information provided by the woman led the department to believe she was an unlawful non-citizen," the spokesman told Australia's AAP news agency.

Nettle said Cornelia had been the victim of a bumbling bureaucracy.

"I will be calling for an inquiry to examine how this staggering case of mismanagement and abuse was allowed to happen," Nettle said. "How many other seriously mentally ill people are locked up in detention centres? How many missing persons have been wrongfully incarcerated by our immigration authorities?" 

DPA

Subject: German news

 

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