Escaped asylum seekers a good start, says socialist candidate

Protest for refugee rights outside Villawood detention centre, April.

Socialist Alliance media release: "The six asylum seekers that are still at large after escaping from Villawood Detention Centre are in the right place---out of the Villawood hell-hole, and in the community where they belong," Duncan Roden, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Parramatta, said today.

Fijian-born Roden visited Villawood Detention Centre two days ago, along with 17 refugee rights activists to examine conditions.

"Villawood is appalling---conditions are inhumane and isolating," Roden said. "We spoke to Sri Lankan men who were already traumatised by government torture in the war last year, and yet after fleeing persecution they face more trauma. Five men were rejected by ALP Rudd government last week, despite clearly fitting the refugee criteria under the UN Convention."

"Just last week in Sri Lanka, 6 schoolgirls were picked up in a Tamil town and disappeared by paramilitaries---this sort of persecution is a common occurrence for Tamils, Chinese, and Afghanis. The breakout shows the desperation of these poor people," commented Roden.

"With the Rudd government freezing visa applications for Sri Lankans and Afghanis, some of the most vulnerable people, and deporting others to horrific situations, it is no wonder this desperation is turning into

"Yet less than 20 years ago asylum seekers weren't locked up in this inhumane way - their applacations were processed while they were housed in hostels. It costs the ALP government $2000 per week to lock up
refugees in detention centres: we could release and house them for $400 a week and stick the money into schools, trains and public housing," Roden said.

"We should free the refugees, close Christmas Island and all the detention centres, and return Villawood to what it was less than two decades ago - a hostel. These desperate people need safety and compassion, not more persecution and imprisonment."

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