Protest calls for MITA detainees to be released

Protesting outside MITA. Photo: Sue Bolton

A protest inside two compounds of the Broadmeadows Immigration Detention Centre (MITA North) at the end of December prompted a solidarity rally on December 29 calling for the detainees to be released. It was organised by the Refugee Action Collective (Victoria).

Many of those attending have family members or friends imprisoned. A number of detainees spoke to the protest via their phone. They described the terrible conditions and their appreciation for the solidarity. One detainee commented on the hypocrisy of the federal government for criticising other countries’ human rights abuses.

The detainees are all migrants who are being imprisoned under section 501 of the Immigration Act for committing a crime. By detaining them indefinitely, the government is extending their punishment in an extra-judicial manner.

the December 27 protest forced Serco guards, including the emergency response team, to withdraw. Detainees also took to the roofs of the two compounds over the continuing ban on detainees receiving visits. Even though a COVID-19 safe visiting area has been built, visits have been banned for more than a year.

Detainees see the ban on visiting as yet another punishment.

According to RAC, the protest by detainees “is one more symptom of the growing tensions inside MITA” as detainees become “victim of the inconsistent arbitrary approaches to Covid risks”.

A Secure Immigration Detention (Serco) officer was tested for COVID-19 on December 14, after being identified as a close contact, but was allowed to continue working while waiting for the test result, which returned a positive result two days later.

Because of the potential exposure, detainees in Bass 1 and 2 in MITA South have been locked down since then.

Refugee advocates called the rally to bring attention to the racism behind this unjust treatment. It wants MITA to be shut down and the detainees released into the community.

“Instead of organising reprisals and further punishment, MITA should be closed,” Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition said.

“Detainees have the right to be treated as human beings. Many of the detainees have families in the community who could safely accommodate them; instead they are separated from them – putting their mental and physical health at greater risk.”

Rintoul said it was a problem that “Serco acts as judge, jury and executioner inside the detention regime” and that there is “no oversight of their punitive powers”. He called on Border Force to immediately reinstate family visits.

Detainees in the Ford compound are continuing to sleep outside their rooms in protest at the visiting ban.

Meanwhile, a detainee at the Falcon compound of Yongah Hill detention centre in Western Australia was allegedly attacked in his sleep by seven Serco guards and placed in isolation of December 29. Despite requests for an ambulance, Alexander Toderman had not received medical attention eight hours later. Refugee activists are demanding a full inquiry into the alleged attack.

“There is no procedure to investigate complaints or assault allegations. Neither state nor federal police take responsibility to investigate assault complaints and often ignore complaints claiming one or the other does not have jurisdiction,” Rintoul said. 

Yongah Hill has a record of assaults by Serco guards. He said Serco have the power to “arbitrarily hold people in solitary confinement” or “punitively transfer people between detention centres on a whim”. 

“Alexander needs medical attention, and there needs to be a full investigation of how he received his injuries; Serco guards responsible for assaults must be held accountable,” concluded Rintoul.

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