Refugees on hunger strike as supporters reach Curtin

April 26, 2011
Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Forty activists travelled more than 30 hours on the road from Perth and arrived at the gates of the Curtin detention centre on Saturday April 23.

We were greeted with legalistic warnings and numerous lies from the Serco guards, who imposed a roadblock outside the centre.

More significantly, we have heard from detainees inside the centre that Serco guards have lied to them as well. Detainees had been told that the convergence bus has turned around and that activists no longer planned to visit.

In response, 130 detainees commenced a hunger strike. Their demands included that visits by refugee activists be allowed.

A couple of days earlier, 700 detainees signed a letter demanding that a delegation of convergence activists be allowed to meet a delegation of detainees.

It is a matter of record that the first words out of the mouths of Serco staff were a technical lie. Activists asked if there was a toilet at the roadblock and were told the answer “no”. Minutes later, two children from the convergence bus were allowed to use a toilet at the roadblock.

While activists were read less than welcoming legalistic warnings, one person asked if Serco manager Michael Puglisi was among the Serco staff at the roadblock. This was denied, but later found to be the truth.

These small lies kept with the range of excuses used to prevent activists visiting detainees.

Despite having put in official forms for about 100 visits with detainees, the excuses included the outrageous claim that no visiting form had been put in requesting a visit, that names on forms were spelled incorrectly, that detainees could not be located in the centre and that the centre did not have capacity to receive visits at that time.

Later we learned that refugee advocates from NSW were inside visiting detainees at that very moment.

These lies show that the policy being implemented by Serco — mandatory detention of refugees — is an indefensible policy. It is a policy defended by razor wire and lies.

Tomorrow we will be back at the Curtin gates demanding our rights to visit detainees, demanding the refugees’ rights to meet supporters from around the country and demanding the closure of all detention centres and the welcoming of refugees into the Australian community.

For photos of the protest visit:

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