The Refugee Action Collective called a rally outside the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) in Broadmeadows on April 23 to demand freedom for those inside.
Some of the detainees are refugees, but most are people held under section 501 of the Immigration Act. These people were born overseas, are not citizens, and were detained either because they have been charged with a crime here, or are considered to be of “bad character”.
Most have completed their sentences, but are being punished again by being detained before they are deported. They call themselves “501s”.
Nazir Moradi, a Hazara refugee from Afghanistan, sent a message which was read out to the protesters. He arrived in Australia in 2012 and is still waiting for a determination about whether he is a refugee or not.
Iranian-born Reza Mousavi, who was recently released, had been detained for nine years on Christmas Island, Manus island and in Australia, told the rally that he had found a job, a place to live and made friends. But because his visa is temporary, his future is uncertain; he has decided to go to Canada.
Three detainees spoke by phone from inside MITA.
Joey Tangaloa Taualii was brought to Australia when three month’s old and has lived here for 50 years. He has had 12 children. He did not obtain Australian citizenship and is therefore treated as a foreigner. He committed a crime and spent time in jail. After being released he was taken to MITA, where he has been held.
Sam Abrahim spoke about how his medication is not always accessible, his Islamic dietary requirements are not met and visits are blocked.
Julian Taylor, who arrived from England at the age of four and who has an Australian partner and children, has been in detention for two and a half years. He described the food as “disgusting”, a rat plague, and said detention involves the “theft of taxpayers’ money”.
It costs three times as much to keep someone in immigration detention as it does to keep them in a maximum security prison. One beneficiary is SERCO, which has a contract worth $2.5 billion.
Labor candidate Keir Paterson and Greens local councillor Angelica Panopoulos addressed the protest as did First Nations activist Larry Dowling who said the tradition of welcoming strangers needed to be applied to refugees.