Sit-in at Maribyrnong detention centre

January 31, 2001


MELBOURNE — Protesters staged a sit-in on the roof of the Maribyrnong detention centre here on January 24 to protest the appalling conditions in the centre and the policy of detaining asylum seekers.

Seven protesters climbed onto the roof during visiting hours and draped banners reading "Close these hell-holes" and "Free the refugees". Fifty supporters outside the chanted slogans in support of the refugees and against the policies of immigration minister Philip Ruddock. The voices of refugees inside the centre could be heard shouting, "We want freedom!".

The protest ended when those on the roof withdrew after police agreed to allow them to leave without being arrested or summonsed to face trespass charges.

Maribyrnong detention centre is run by Australasian Correctional Management, a subsidiary of a notorious US-based prison administration company.

In December, Tongan detainee Viliami Tanginoa, who was facing imminent deportation, died when he fell from the basketball hoop he had climbed as a protest. Refugees said he sat there for hours while the staff taunted him, refused him food and drink and even played basketball.

Further evidence of the racist nature of the detention system was provided by a man who joined the January 24 protest. His brother, who was on holiday from Canada, had been arrested the previous day, under suspicion of working without an appropriate visa. He was taken into custody for no apparent reason other than being of Vietnamese bachground.

Following the action, the Victorian Trades Hall Council executive passed a motion incorporating the demands made at the action: for an inquiry into Tanginoa's death; better conditions for detainees; and the closure of the detention centres.

The Democratic Socialist Party's new western suburbs branch has decided to launch a campaign to close the Maribyrnong detention centre. People wishing to join the campaign can phone (03) 9639 8622 or email <>.

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