Protests at Villawood against forced transfers

Activists try to stop the transfer of asylum seekers from Villawood on November 12. Photo: Rachel Evans

Activists tried to stop the transfer of asylum seekers from Villawood in Sydney to Yongah Hill in Western Australia on November 12 and 13.

Activists heard that 65 asylum seekers would be transferred following on from the forcible transfer of at least 83 refugees from Villawood in April.

Refugees oppose being transferred to remote detention centres because they have less access to support networks, such as friends and lawyers. The friendships they have made in detention can also be destroyed if people are sent to separate facilities.

It also makes it easier for refugees to be deported from remote detention centres.

Many people are outraged at the way asylum seekers are treated. The murder of Reza Berati on Manus Island resulted in 20,000 people rallying in cities across Australia while the Palm Sunday refugee rights marches were significantly larger this year.

Activists from Students Thinking Outside Borders gathered outside Villawood at 5am on November 12, keeping watch over the detention centre gates and conducting a peaceful action in front of the entrance.

The Refugee Action Coalition also supported the action.

About 50 people participated in the symbolic protest, dressed in white with “blood” painted on their hands.

Despite the protest, the bus got through.

The next day, 15 activists returned to Villawood and locked-on in front of the gates. Police arrested three activists who conducted the civil disobedience action, and the bus was again able to leave.

Vanessa Powell, a regular Villawood detention centre visitor, said: “Transfers are cruel and vindictive acts by the immigration minister and the department [of immigration] to remove people from their support networks.

“There are a lot of refugees still inside Villawood. Recently the government has redetained a number of Iranian asylum seekers. They had been living in the community happily, working and [were] redetained for minor offences.

“Like me, there are hundreds of visitors each week to detention centres across Australia from various community groups, showing [that] not all of us agree with the government’s lies about refugees.”

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