January 19, 2012
3 more detainees inside Broadmeadows Detention Centre have joined a hunger strike, bringing the number to 5.
“This is the desperation refugees have to go to to be heard. They feel like they are being ignored. Some are still waiting, sometimes over a year, for security checks. They are incredibly frustrated. If they’re accepted as a refugee but ASIO rejects them, they can be locked inside indefinitely.” said Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) spokesperson Benjamin Solah.
Last night, 50 refugee activists held a vigil outside the gates of Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation or ‘Broadmeadows Detention Centre’ in solidarity with two Iranian men who were on hunger strike inside, protesting against the long wait for security checks from ASIO and the general inhumanity of mandatory detention.
One refugee has been lying outside, clutching a fence and refusing food for 5 days. Serco responded by putting a blanket up on the fence to block him from view. Another refugee has been on hunger strike for 9 days.
“I have been visiting this guy for months and when I was there on a visit on Tuesday night they were bringing him back from hospital. He looked like a different man, could barely walk or speak. He went to his room and doesn’t come out,” said Jenell Quinsee, RAC member and regular visitor of the detention centre, of the refugee on his 9th day refusing food.
Activists outside chanted and made noise so the refugees could hear them, lit candles spelling out ‘SOS’, played music and listened to speeches. Speakers included Colleen Hartland, a Greens MLC, and an Iranian activist who spoke about some of the reasons Iranians have fled the country to seek asylum in places like Australia. Later on, he was able to communicate with an Iranian hunger striker via mobile phone and translate his message for the crowd. The detainee expressed his gratitude for the support outside, and said that before, they had been too depressed to play games, but were now playing board games with each other.
The Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) demands the release of these refugees into the community. We have grave concerns for their welfare and believe that are not a security threat in the slightest. One refugee with an adverse security claim, Ali Abbas, will appear before the Federal Court on Monday to challenge the ASIO security assessment and the laws that withhold the evidence and findings that mean he will remain in detention indefinitely. Activists will hold a protest outside the court in support from 9.30am.