refugee rights

The federal Labor government has ignored the rising humanitarian crisis in Australian detention centres, even after Fijian-born Josefa Rauluni jumped to his death inside Villawood on September 20.

Three days before the tragic event, newly appointed immigration minister Chris Bowen announced that $50 million would be spent on 1600 new detention spots for asylum seekers.

Six hundred beds would be added to Curtin detention centre in remote WA, and 100 places would be added for families and children inside Melbourne’s “Immigration Transit Accommodation”.

When the last of the Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers stepped off the Australian customs boat the Oceanic Viking on November 17, 2009, most Australians assumed that the issue was resolved.

The 78 Tamil asylum seekers were “intercepted” in mid-October and taken onboard the Oceanic Viking. They were then taken to Indonesia. The asylum seekers refused to get off the boat, fearing they would be deported back to Sri Lanka.

It has been a dramatic week at Villawood detention centre, with a suicide sparking off a spate of rooftop protests. These events highlight the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and the need to get rid of mandatory detention.

A September 24 Crikey.com.au article revealed: “Up to 27 deaths have occurred in immigration custody since 2000.”

The statement below was released by the Sydney Refugee Action Coalition on September 20.

VILLAWOOD IN CHAOS AFTER SUICIDE AS HUNGER STRIKES AND PROTESTS CONTINUE

The suicide of a Fijian man facing deportation from the Villawood detention centre this morning has thrown the detention centre into chaos.

The Fijian man died after throwing himself from the roof of a building in stage 2 of the detention centre.

Seventy-five people staged a noisy rally in Vancouver on September 11 in support of 492 Tamil asylum seekers who landed on Canada’s west coast in August. The rally was organised by the Vancouver chapter of No One Is Illegal.

The rally was held outside the Burnaby Youth Detention Center where many of the 63 women and 49 children who were on board the MV Sun Sea were held. (Burnaby is a suburb of Vancouver). Noisemakers and loud music were deployed to send a message to the asylum seekers that they have strong support in Canada for their claim for refugee status.

After a record high vote for the Greens in the August 21 federal election, it did not take long for the corporate media to get its claws out.

In particular, Rupert Murdoch-owned News Ltd’s flagship newspaper The Australian has been called out for its string of critical stories and headlines targeting the Greens.

In a September 9 editorial, the paper responded to Greens Senator Bob Brown's criticism that the paper was openly attacking the Greens-Labor deal, saying the Greens “are bad for the nation; and ... should be destroyed at the ballot box”.

Three of the 12 Tamil asylum seekers accused of rioting at Christmas Island detention centre in November 2009 have had their charges dismissed.

The lawyers for detainee Mr Suntharalingam successfully argued that it would not be fair to use his record of interview against him, as he did not fully understand the caution given to him by the Federal Police at the start of the interview.

Without the interview Commonwealth prosecutors were unable to continue the charges against him.

On September 15, Leela Krishna, a Tamil refugee in Villawood Detention Centre, was removed to Melbourne's Maribyrnong Detention Centre. Supporters of Leela protested and leafleted Sydney Airport's domestic terminal on the day.

Despite being recognised as a refugee by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in April, Leela is still being imprisoned while ASIO conducts “security checks”. A gay man, he has experienced sexual harassment, bullying and physical assault in detention and has attempted suicide several of times.

In late August, Mexican authorities found the bodies of 72 migrants from Central and South America. They had been kidnapped on their way to the United States, brutally shot and left to die in a remote, abandoned ranch near a small town in northeastern Mexico.

Eighteen-year-old Luis Freddy Lala Pomavilla was one of two survivors of the massacre who managed to escape and lead authorities to the crime scene. He claimed he and his fellow US-bound migrants were kidnapped by the Zetas drug cartel and told they would either have to pay a ransom or work as drug couriers and hit men.

Hazara asylum seekers, who broke out of the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin on September 1 to hold a peaceful seven-hour protest, have been transferred to the WA Curtin detention centre.

On September 3, Australian Association of Hazaras spokesperson Arif Fayazi told ABC radio he was concerned for their welfare.

Fayazi said that when he was in detention in similar circumstances in 2000, many of his fellow detainees became so distressed they harmed themselves.

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