As part of a National Day of Action for refugee rights, about 250 protesters turned out to Melbourne’s Maribyrnong Detention centre on April 25 to show solidarity with refugees in detention and to oppose the mandatory detention of asylum seekers.
The human rights activists gathered at the detention centre entrance. They were addressed by speakers from the Greens, Students for Palestine and two former detainees including Ali Bakhtiavandi from the Socialist Alliance, who had been held in Maribyrnong for 16 months in 2001 and 2002.
Bakhtiavandi said that he will keep on speaking out and will not rest until the Australian department of immigration stops treating people who are fleeing exile and oppression like invaders or “terrorists”.
Bakhtiavandi also said that when he was released from detention he was shocked at the treatment of Aboriginal people.
Protesters were disgusted when it was announced that a 17-year-old Iranian refugee was removed from his room at about 1pm on April 24 and made to sign documents authorising his deportation, possibly to Iraq.
More than 40 police watched as the protesters tied ribbons with the message “free the refugees” to the fence of the facility.
Some police then responded with irrational force as they pushed demonstrators away from the fence using capsicum spray, batons and horses.
At the entrance to the detention centre demonstrators chanted, “we will be back”. This was a reference to the ongoing rallies planned to support the right of refugees to find refuge in Australia, instead of being locked up like criminals.