Far-right and government compete to persecute refugees

Refugee rights rally. Sydney, October 23. Photo: Peter Boyle

An Iraqi Kurd in his 30s who had been in detention at Christmas Island for about 12 months, attempted suicide, the Australian said on November 23. This came just a week after the second suicide in two months at Villawood detention centre.

About 20 fellow asylum seekers resorted to sewing their lips shut and 230 other detainees went on hunger strike in protest as “people felt that the Gillard government was ignoring their cases”.

A spokesperson for the immigration department said, “Department of Immigration and Citizenship staff have explained that their actions will not alter the outcome or accelerate the time necessary to assess those claims.”

Meanwhile, in South Australia, the extreme right-wing Australia First Party (AFP) letterboxed residents of the Adelaide Hills with anti-refugee pamphlets last week, coinciding with immigration minister Chris Bowen's second community meeting on November 24.

The pamphlet called for a community strike against the proposed Inverbrackie immigration detention facility, claiming it represents "the culture-busting of the Aussie identity, a part of the process of the recolonisation of your land".

The AFP's proposed community strike demands that no "Australian" should have anything to do with the facility in terms of accepting employment "arising from the intrusion" or to "collaborate" with any government agency that runs the project.

It called for the boycott of any church or community group that supports the "refugee invasion" and that there should be no communication with any "so-called refugee".

Further, it instructed people to "shun and avoid any person who violates these rules".

The AFP's South Australia website listed the names of local supporters of the Inverbrackie facility. It denounced local Liberal Party MP, Jamie Briggs, for his party's supposedly hypocritical stance of opposing the facility, yet not committing to "tear up the United Nations Treaty on refugees".

It also pledged, "that the day will come when — by force if necessary — these so-called refugees of recent times will be returned home.

“But we also promise that they will return home with the resources to establish new lives provided by the expropriation of the property of all those Australians (sic) who aided, abetted and caused this blight in the first instance."

This racist tripe did not seem to have the desired effect of galvanising the community against the refugees. Bowen said: "If anything … there were strong views in favour of the facility, which perhaps weren't heard at previous meetings."

However, the AFP’s fascist diatribes are only an extension of the demonisation of refugees by successive Labor and Liberal governments and the corporate media. The AFP’s hysteria about the threat refugees pose is certainly outlandish, but the bipartisan consensus in favour of detaining refugees in prison camps gives the message that the government also sees them as dangerous criminals.

The first asylum seekers are due to be moved to the Inverbrackie facility by late December.

On a happier note, Amnesty International has begun a campaign to "shift the hearts and minds of the Australian public on the issue of asylum seekers”. Visit the campaign website at www.rethinkrefugees.com.au .