Big protest planned outside Villawood refugee prison



SYDNEY — "We want the people detained in the Villawood refugee prison, as well as the Australian public, to know that there are many people in this country, and around the world, who strongly oppose the Australian government's treatment of asylum seekers and refugees and are prepared to stand in solidarity with their struggle for freedom", Free the Refugees Campaign activist Roberto Jorquera told Green Left Weekly.

He was talking about the group's planned international solidarity rally outside the Villawood detention centre on the morning of March 31. The rally is part of the Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference being held in Sydney over Easter.

The international guests at the conference will join hundreds of local activists in a march from the Villawood train station to the refugee prison. Speakers from Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Australian pro-refugee campaign organisations will address the protest.

The protesters will tie hundreds of white balloons, with demands for freedom and justice written on them, to the prison fence. The rally organisers will also attempt to present to the refugees inside a declaration of solidarity signed by the dozens of international visitors at the conference.

"It is possible that the refugees will be locked in their rooms during the protest so that they cannot see what we are doing. It is common practice by Australasian Correctional management, the corporation that runs Villawood, to punish detainees even more than usual whenever people outside hold a protest action", Jorquera said.

"Despite the possible consequences, my own and other FRC members' visits to Villawood over the last month have confirmed that many detainees enthusiastically support our rally. We will try to match their courage and determination by mobilising as many people as possible", Jorquera added.

Participants will meet at 8.30am, March 31, at Villawood train station and march to the detention centre for a rally that will continue until 10.30am. All supporters of refugees' rights are encouraged to attend.

From Green Left Weekly, March 27, 2002.
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