A letter from Maribyrnong detainees

February 28, 2009

On behalf of the Maribyrnong detainee community, we would like to gain your support as we have seen your efforts to fight for refugees' rights and the organisation of support for asylum seekers and refugees.

People are waiting for a long time in the detention centre, and immigration authorities are spoiling their lives and skills. People are getting mental problems day in and day out. The authorities claim that they are humane in their treatment of us, however they are oppressing individual rights and setting up incidents of oppression in their Western democracy.

Some of us are ill and are not getting proper medication. Our community also notes that, according to Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advice, people should not travel to certain countries (Sri Lanka, South Africa, Ghana and Pakistan, to mention a few).

However, the department is forcing refugees to go back to these countries. Some people from these countries have been diagnosed by doctors and psychologists with anxiety, however the department is not showing due concern for these people and for their situation.

We would like to request people to come out and support us by protesting against the oppression and inhumane treatment by immigration authorities. We are also ready to have serious hunger strikes inside the centre.

The community has found that the current system of the department is in crisis and it needs great effort and concern to make it fairer. The immigration department has no concern for the human rights of asylum seeker detainees; it is putting them with criminals. There is no law in the world that says asylum seekers should be put with criminals.

These criminals push the asylum seeker detainees to fight so that they can become defaulters and have character problems like them. The system, in the name of public interest, is driving skillful people away from public benefits.

The story does not end here. They also forcing people to take their own lives. Such incidents lead us to conclude that the department does not care for human life and dignity. The officials have no regard for their own dignity; how can they have concern for other human beings' dignity?

They are treating human beings in a stingy manner, lacking love and generosity, which are human values. Such is the story for a country claiming to be a leader in human rights: what can be expected from other countries?

Immigration authorities work through a "rights-demand" model rather than a "rights-granted" model. In the rights-demand model, people have to inform the authorities when they are denying their rights, even though authorities claim that they are qualified enough to understand their clients' rights, while in fact they are not. In a rights-granted model, the authorities are fair enough to grant the people's rights before they request them.

They claim to hire qualified people and give them professional training, however they end up ignorant of their own policies and rights of their clients.

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