Refugee Action Collective (Vic)

2017 Media Releases

Action Alert: Don’t silence refugees – No to Detention Mobile Phone Ban

Action Alert: Don’t silence refugees – No to Detention Mobile Phone Ban

Action Alert: Don’t silence refugees – No to Detention Mobile Phone Ban

Refugee advocates in Melbourne will be held in makeshift cages in a protest outside the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), Casselden Place on Thursday 9th February from 4.30-6pm.

Speakers include: Pamela Curr – refugee advocate
Aran Mylvaganam.-Tamil Refugee Council
Abdul-Hadi Matar – Sudanese community leader from Darfur
Margaret Sinclair – Refugee Action Collective

They aim to highlight dramatic changes currently being introduced at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) centre in Broadmeadows, and a new Australian Border Force policy that would see all detainees in mainland Australian detention centres banned from using mobile phones.

Australian Border Force announced in November a controversial new policy to remove all mobile phones inside Australia’s mainland detention centres, with detainees given until February to comply. Staff are already confiscating phones from many detainees. These actions silencing refugees are of a piece with the draconian Border Force Act. They make a mockery of the Coalition government’s claims to stand for free speech when it comes to proposed changes to section 18C of the racial discrimination act. They will make it difficult for asylum seekers and refugees to contact their families.

In a recent Senate submission, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection explained its plans for MITA, including the introduction of “correctional service style accommodation”. Many MITA detainees are refugees and asylum seekers who simply have been transferred temporarily from the camps on Manus Island and Nauru for medical treatments. Despite having broken no laws in exercising their right to claim asylum, detainees are increasingly subjected to prison style repressive measures. Margaret Sinclair of the Refugee Action Collective, points out that “over the past 18 months MITA has become more prisonlike for the people detained both from a physical and psychological point of view. The proposed works will increase the prisonlike atmosphere for both the people residing at the Centre and their visitors.”

Australian Border Force maintains the ban is designed to crack down on illegal activity, but refugee advocates dispute this. According to Liam Ward of the Refugee Action Collective, the policy is “an attack on the basic rights of people who’ve never been charged with committing a crime, let alone convicted. This is part of the ongoing attempt to paint asylum seekers as criminals.”

Australia’s offshore camps in Manus Island and Nauru have recently come under increased scrutiny in the wake of a number of deaths and a string of leaks detailing allegations of abuse. With the media already banned from entering the centres, much of this material has come to light via mobile phone communications, particularly smartphones with in-built cameras. “The Government is attempting to tighten the shroud of silence over its camps,” Ward said, “to further conceal systemic human rights abuses being perpetrated right under our noses”.

Advocates also fear the policy is aimed at obstructing refugees and asylum seekers from making urgent and confidential contact with lawyers. “It is not unusual for people to be removed without warning to distant detention centres, and even deported back to danger and potentially death”, Ward said, “Separating asylum seekers from their legal counsel and support networks is a breach of basic rights and will place those people at extreme risk.”

Protest: 4:30pm Thursday 9th February, outside Department of Immigration and Border Protection 2 Lonsdale St, Casselden Pl Melbourne


Contact: Margaret Sinclair 0417 031 533 or Liam Ward 0407 474 313 from the Refugee Action Collective

6:30pm 27 Feb | Bring Them Here – Why the “US Refugee Deal” is No Solution

6:30pm 27 Feb | Bring Them Here – Why the “US Refugee Deal” is No Solution

When: 6:30-8:30pm Monday 27th February

Where: Melbourne’s Multiultural Hub, 506 Elizabeth St, Melbourne

multicultural hub

Public Forum
Speakers: Graham Thom – Amnesty International
Chris Breen – Refugee Action Collective

Nothing about the ‘US refugee deal’ is certain; President Trump is only going to ‘consider the dumb deal’. There are serious doubts that it will go ahead at all. No one knows what “extreme vetting” means to the thousands of people on Manus and Nauru already there for over three years.

In any case the deal falls far short of what is needed to ensure security for all of the people Australia sent to Nauru and Manus Island. Those on Manus and Nauru should not wait one day longer for freedom, urgent action is needed to bring the refugees to Australia.

This forum will discuss the politics of the US refugee deal, and building the campaign to #bringthemhere.

Facebook event here

RAC Statement: No to racist deportations

No to racist deportations

Migrant youth accused of committing crimes are being referred to Border Force for possible deportation. The Refugee Action Collective strongly opposes this trump-like scapegoating. In particular, we condemn attempts to change the law to allow for the deportation of children.

Despite saying, in a 19 January interview with 3AW, that “Australia does not deport children”, federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton also noted that a federal parliamentary committee “is having a look at … whether, for example, the bar [for deportations] could be lowered from 18”. Dutton was vague on how low that bar might fall to: “17 or 16, or whatever the case might be”.

The Labor Party has not taken a principled stand against this racism. When asked about Dutton’s plan, Bill Shorten said the ALP would “look at what he’s saying” and accepted the principle that non-citizens who commit serious crimes have “no place in Australia”.

With the Victorian media’s endless reporting on the so-called Apex gang and on crimes committed by Sudanese youth, one might be led to believe that Sudanese people are overrepresented in violent crime statistics. This simply isn’t the case, as data from the Victorian Crime Statistics Agency confirm.

The “Apex gang” itself is a media invention. The Age reported that the supposed gang “has no clubhouse, no colours and no real structure”. In fact, no one had heard of the Apex gang until mass media reporting of a CBD brawl between young people in March last year. That incident would have been quite unremarkable had it not been for the particular skin colour of those involved.

It’s an unfortunate reality of the world in which we live that fights like this break out from time to time among people from all kinds of backgrounds. And it’s pretty normal for these incidents to go unreported in the media and certainly pass without police investigation, let alone deportations. For example, reported in September last year:

“Victoria Police say they are not investigating an all-in-brawl at a suburban Aussie rules football match despite reports a pregnant woman was assaulted”. The Herald Sun reports a female spectator in the late stages of her pregnancy was kicked by as many as 20 people after fighting broke out on the sidelines at Wootten Road Reserve in Tarneit on Saturday.”

Disappointingly, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has reinforced the racist hysteria and law-and-order push. In the aftermath of the CBD brawl, he declared “we will come after you and you will feel the full force of the law”. He discounted the traumatic histories of Sudanese youth, saying “I’m not interested, and neither are Victorians, in these ‘poor me’ stories.”

Media and government scaremongering around the so-called Apex gang is about fostering a climate of hostility to reinforce the Australian government’s broader anti-refugee agenda.

The vilification of young migrants, the constant insinuation – or outright assertions – that they are criminals and a danger to society, is part of the same racist agenda that results in refugees languishing in offshore detention centres, experiencing abuse and torture at the hands of the Australian government and being deported back to danger.

Isaac Gatkuoth, a young Sudanese, is one victim of this.

At just nine years of age, Isaac arrived as a refugee after fleeing a horrifying childhood in Sudan. His mother has been missing since he was five, his two brothers were killed in the civil war that wracked the country, and only recently he was heartbroken to learn that his father had died when he was five.

Isaac suffers from PTSD and has developed a drug dependency. He was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 20 months in youth detention. But on top of that punishment, he will now be deported to a country which he fled when he was five, where the people he knew are long dead, and in which there is an ongoing civil war.

Isaac is in need of support, not cruelty and abandonment. We know that in Isaac’s outer south eastern suburbs, unemployment is often over 20 percent. We know that young people from Sudanese backgrounds experience many layers of racism and discrimination – including racial profiling by police – which limits their opportunities. And we know that there is a distinct lack of Australian government funding for social services to support people like Isaac.

Isaac and other young refugees and migrants in similar situations have the right to be in Australia, the right to protection and the right to be treated equally under the law.

Deporting young people back to the hell they previously escaped is a severe miscarriage of justice.