immigration detention

In 2011, in the days leading up to January 26, with Australian flags fluttering off cars and used as capes, accompanied by cartons of beer, sporting excellence as the pinnacle of Australian achievement and politicians lecturing the country on what it means to be a “proud Australian”, I left Perth.

The immigration department has confirmed it wrongly sent two Australian citizens to immigration detention after cancelling their visas.

The two, who were born in New Zealand and hold dual citizenship, were taken to immigration detention after their visas were cancelled following their release from prison.

One was taken to Christmas Island, while the other was detained onshore.

Under section 501 of the Migration Act, a non-citizen's visa must be cancelled if they serve a jail term of more than 12 months.

It is amazing how radical believing in the simple notion of welcoming refugees in Australia has become. ABC’s Q&A program on alternatives to detention on October 10 gave some insight into how convoluted the debate on refugees has become.

A number of “compromise solutions” are being put forward but none of them address the worldwide refugee crisis or end Australia’s cruel detention system.

In the dead of night on July 26, a young Sudanese man, whom we will call “Walleed”, was forcibly removed by police from a van.

Video footage shows a dozen protestors shouting “We love you” and “We will not let you be forgotten” as he is dragged into Melbourne airport. Refugee activists had surrounded the van and blocked it from entering the airport for a few hours before police moved in.

After three years of campaigning, Tamil refugee Ranjini was suddenly released from Villawood detention centre on November 12.

Even though she had been granted refugee status, Ranjini was whisked off the streets of Melbourne and locked up in 2012, due to a sudden ASIO decision to declare her a threat to national security. She was never allowed to find out why this had happened, see the evidence or challenge it in a court.

More than 50 others suffered the same fate. Some have been released after six years in prison. Others are still there.

Yet another refugee has been found dead while in the care of the Immigration Department thanks to Australia's harsh and punitive refugee policy.

Thirty-year-old Iranian Kurd, Fazel Chegeni, who first arrived in Australia in 2011, died after escaping from the detention centre, although how he came to be found dead remains unclear.

Behind the Wire is an oral history project documenting the stories of men, women and children who have experienced mandatory detention. It seeks to bring a new perspective to the public understanding of mandatory detention by sharing the reality of the people who have lived it.

Green Left Weekly photographer and Socialist Alliance member Ali Bakhtiarvandi was one of those interviewed. This is a brief excerpt of his story. You can read the full story here.

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