A lawyer, families, high school and university students, unionists and many long-time activists took part in a joint Christmas visit to the Villawood detention centre in Sydney’s west on December 21.
Visit coordinator Rachel Evans told NewZulu.com that Serco, the private company that operates Villawood, tried to confuse and put off visitors, by insisting that forms be faxed to the office 24 hours before the visit, and even phoning some people who had submitted forms.
"Around 70 people came along,” she said. “There would have been more but Serco Housing section rang a number of visitors in our group the night before (at 8-9pm) and told them the visit was off, cancelled, that they had too many people in the section, and we weren't to come. This deterred some people. Serco rang myself early the day of the visit and said that the Housing visit had been cancelled, but we were able to go to Stage 2.
“Housing is where families are detained, where children are detained. None of our visitors were able to get into the housing section, although a friend who put his forms in weeks ago made it in, and said it was empty. He was told very few people were allowed into Housing because there was a 'protest'. Which is not true, there was no protest, only a large group of us visiting for Christmas.”
Three families were still denied entry on the day. Evans said this was typical “arbitrary” treatment by Serco.
The event was endorsed by the Indigenous Social Justice Network, the Refugee Action Coalition, Hazara Youth Perspective Org, Crave Metropolitan Community Church, Kinetic Energy, Usyd Greens, NSW Greens for Refugees, the Socialist Alliance and Salam Care.
The event also received many donations. A quarter of a room was filled with presents for the children detained in Villawood, donated by well-wishers.
The visit inspired an anti-deportation action the following week, which prevented at the last minute the deportation of young Iraqi asylum seeker Faisal. The campaign to appeal his case continues.