As tensions once again rise at MITA (Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation) in Broadmeadows, an Iranian man, aged 28, stitched his lips up this morning (Monday) as a sign of desperation. He has been detained for 11 months.
His friend told Serco and medical staff that he was concerned about his friend and warned them. Serco responded after the incident which was too late. Now they are checking up on him every 30mins. This news comes as updated department figures are released showing 4783 including 528 children are still detained.
“We are concerned that this man is not drinking water. It is absolutely appalling that we are locking innocent people up to the point that they would do this to themselves. Our refugee policy is rotten to the core and must be dismantled immediately. Anything short of that is just inhumane,” Daniella Olea, Refugee Action Collective member and regular visitor.
The lip-stiching follows a hunger strike, of up to six detainees, a few weeks ago where one man was found lying by a fence refusing to move.
Refugee Rights Action Network organised a protest convergence to Leonora Detention Centre over the weekend of the 28th to the 29th of January where they uncovered children who have been in detention for over a year despite Bowen’s promise last year to release all children by June.
Around 40 refugee supporters from the Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN) travelling to Leonora this weekend have been shocked to discover children who have been in detention for over a year when they visited the remote Western Australian detention centre.
Around 140 unaccompanied minors have been moved in recent weeks from Christmas Island and Darwin to the detention centre. The RRAN activists have called for the immediate release of the children from detention.
“We were told that children and families were going to be out of detention by the end of June last year, but Leonora is proof positive that even six months later, the government has not lived up to the promise of getting children out of detention. It’s a scandal”, said RRAN spokesperson Victoria Martin-Iverson.
“These kids are not recent arrivals. A majority of the 40 kids we managed to see have been in detention over a year. Yet, they are either still waiting for their second interview or have just had their appeal hearing. One seventeen year-old Hazara asylum seeker has been in detention for two years and only had his second interview this week! How is that possible?
“We were shocked to find that Serco guards referred to them by number. How dehumanising is that? One guard came is asking ‘Is 176 in here?” Another introduced a young Mohammed as, “Here is 428; he speaks good English.” Perhaps more shocking – some of these kids have signs of self harm on their bodies.
“We have serious concerns. They are not going to school; teachers are meant to be coming into the detention centre – but even that hasn’t happened yet, six weeks after they have arrived here.”
“We eat, we sleep; we eat, we sleep. We are very tired,” one Hazara told the Perth visitors.
“We were told in town that the no asylum kid has been to the library since the families were moved out of Leonora,” said Victoria.
“We are also concerned that there seems to be a large number of untrained MSS guards at Leonora, and that we saw them with direct client contact responsibilities with the children in detention. We thought that having untrained guards in such contact is in direct conflict with guidelines for children in detention. There is a serious question whether Serco or the Immigration Department is breaching its duty of care by using untrained guards.”
The RRAN cavalcade will be leaving Leonora around Sunday lunchtime (29 Jan) to make the return journey to Perth.
The Australian government is currently attempting to deport Afghan Hazara asylum seeker, Ismail Mirza Jan, to Afghanistan. Never before has an Afghan national been forcibly removed from Australia to Afghanistan.
This would be a new low in Australia’s refugee policy, with the Labor Government sinking even further than the Howard Government in pursuing deportations to danger. Even high-ranking ministers in the Western-backed Afghan government have questioned Australia’s right to forcibly repatriate Afghan asylum seekers from Australia. If Ismail is deported, this will open the way for the deportation of scores of Afghan, and potentially other, asylum seekers – back to war torn countries, impending danger, or even a death sentence. Two Tamil asylum seekers, Emil and Vithuran, too were only saved from deportation by last minute legal action in December.
Recently Ismail received a temporary reprieve when the Federal Magistrates Court questioned whether he received “procedural fairness” by the Australian government in their attempts to deport him. Ismail’s deportation case will come back to the High Court on February 8. The refugee rights movement, and all those who oppose this move to forced deportations, have a short window of opportunity to build a broad campaign against the forced deportation of Ismail, and the terrible precedent it would provide for further deportations.