BY ARUN PRADHAN
"Since the protest there has been close to no communication with Woomera [detention centre] inmates", refugees' rights campaigner Pamela Curr told Green Left Weekly on April 6. "The two phone lines normally available to detainees just play out-of-service messages. No one is willing to say how long this will last."
The current lock down is alleged to have involved beatings of inmates. Sources from Woomera, in South Australia, claim that on March 30, the day after the several asylum seekers escaped the prison, detention centre management were prevented from conducting a head count and identification process of remaining detainees. The detainees allegedly refused to cooperate, instead acting in solidarity with the escapees.
Authorities then deployed armed guards and tear gas. Elizabeth Boxall, the first lawyer to visit the Woomera detention centre since the action was told by detainees that a one-year-old boy was among those badly affected by the gas.
Meanwhile 28 of the 30 escapees who appeared in the Adelaide Magistrates Court have been transferred to Port Hedland detention centre, in remote West Australia. They face criminal charges and potential five year jail terms. A lawyer for some of the detainees, Claire O'Conner, told the ABC that she feared many may attempt suicide if separated from family and friends.
They are likely to receive a warm welcome from fellow detainees. Around 200 detainees at Port Hedland began a series of peaceful protests on April 2, held in solidarity with the asylum seekers in Woomera.
From Green Left Weekly, April 10, 2002.
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