Activists prepare for Baxter protest

February 16, 2005

During Easter, refugee-rights activists will converge on the Baxter Immigration Detention Centre near Port Augusta, South Australia, to protest against the ongoing human rights abuses of asylum seekers. Green Left Weekly's Virginia Brown spoke to some of the Perth activists preparing for the March 25-28 "Convergence for Human Rights".

Tonja Boyd, parent and student activist:

I have decided to make the journey across the desert for a third time to continue to show my outrage at Australia's refugee policies. Present policies of mandatory detention, forced deportations and "border protection" represent an attack on fundamental principles of human rights and social justice. They are inflicting appalling suffering on children and adults, with long-lasting psychological damage. These policies are designed to appeal to and incite racism and fear.

We choose the gates of Baxter detention centre to challenge the legitimacy of the very existence of these policies and the infrastructure that exists to implement them. So at Easter in 2005, I'll be at Baxter — let's fight the dispossession, challenge the enclosures, and show that there is opposition to this government and these policies. See you at the fences. Human rights for all.

Phil Chilton, refugee-rights and union activist:

I am going to Baxter because in some ways I see it as the only possible course we can now take in the refugee campaign. We have tried various strategies, such as appealing to the ALP to shift its policy, and appealing to the minor parties in the Senate to pressure the government. While I wouldn't claim that these avenues are completely exhausted, real success has eluded us. The protests at Baxter should aim to reinvigorate the campaign, give confidence to the activists involved and let those under the hammer know they are not alone. Baxter is an opportunity to wipe the smile off Howard's face. We are not done yet — not by a long shot.

Alice Benz:

I want to let more Australians know about the issues concerning detainees at Baxter and say "Wake up! This is happening in your country!" There is a lack of tolerance and compassion regarding refugees, brought about by misinformation from the popular media and the government. I want to do something about the unjust treatment of asylum seekers, instead of just talking about it — I don't want to sit on the sidelines on issues that affect human rights. I want to fight for the solution!

Peter Wilkie, Refugee Rights Action Network:

The main reason why I am going to Baxter — although there are so many — is that I think there is a need to bring the spotlight back to Baxter and all the policies and ideologies that it represents. At the moment there is almost no perceived opposition to these. The ALP is being compliant. The media seems unwilling or disinterested in discussing issues like human rights. The meek dissenting voices within the Coalition seem preoccupied with trying to achieve minimal concessions in a handful of individual cases. At this time there is no opposition but that which we create. Protesting at Baxter is one of the tactics that we need to create dissent and achieve change.

[To join the WA contingent, visit < http://www.rran-A HREF=""><> or phone 0408 525 490. For more information about the Baxter protest visit <>.]

From Green Left Weekly, February 16, 2005.
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