Refugee activists in Melbourne and then Sydney have been blockading entrances to detention centres to stop the deportation of “Saeed” (not his real name), a 60-year-old Iraqi man. So far, the deportation has been delayed by several days.
Saeed is from a persecuted religious minority in Iraq. He came to Australia in 2012 via boat and has spent the past four years in detention. His brother, who came on the same boat and has an almost identical application, has been granted asylum.
Saeed’s initial application for asylum in Australia was rejected and he was not told he could appeal. He does not speak English and when he attempted to submit an appeal years later, he was told it was too late.
Called on social media by Close the Camps Action Collective and Refugee Action Collective Victoria, refugee activists stood in the driving rain and blockaded the three entrances leading into Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) for 22 hours on March 21.
A large sign made of lights was hung on the wall of the detention centre during the night reading “don’t deport to danger”.
Saeed was rushed to hospital for the third time in the past couple of weeks. He has been on hunger strike for more than two weeks and his health is precarious.
The Iraqi Ambassador said his deportation would not be accepted. Activists believed he might be safe from deportation.
However, plans were put in place to deport him again and he was returned to MITA. Activists resumed protesting, checking all vehicles that left the centre.
Saeed’s access to his lawyer was blocked from 2.30pm on March 23. He was then bundled into a car and driven to Villawood detention centre in Sydney, where he regained access to his lawyer at 9am on March 24.
The Sydney Refugee Action Coalition called an action outside Villawood detention centre that afternoon. Refugee activists gathered outside the main entrance and checked cars as they came out.
The police presence grew and they eventually attacked the activists, pushing them off the road so vehicles could drive out. Four arrests were made.
The protest has delayed Saeed’s deportation for several days and, at time of writing, he still has not been deported.
Saeed is still in Villawood and activists are monitoring the situation, watching the detention centre and prepared to rush to the airport.