Refugee Action Collective (Vic)

Free the refugees! Let them land, let them stay!

Archives December 2015


> Refugee Action Coalition
> Reports of women asylum seekers and refugees  being sexually harassed
> while being searched on their way into RPC3, the camp accommodating
> families and single women, have emerged from Nauru.
> At least two of the searches, one conducted on 6 December and another
> on 11 December have been the subject of official complaints, and the
> guards involved have been identified. Refugee women on Nauru believe
> at least another five or six women have been subjected to the abusive
> searches since the rule change.
> No explanation has been given for the rule change, but the women
> involved believe that the guards are searching for smart phones, but
> also for perfume, lighter. Food and fruit brought from outside the
> camp is also confiscated.
> Around 4pm, Sunday 6 December, a married Iranian female asylum seeker
> was returning to RPC3 having attended church. She was searched by four
> Wilson guards, two women (believed to be Australian) and two men. The
> two female guards eventually forced to remove her shirt in view of the
> male guards standing a short distance away.
> Three days later, after lodging a formal complaint, she was visited in
> her tent by Wilson’s Security officials who told her that there were
> new rules regarding searches and that the guards could ‘touch their
> bodies.”
> On the night of 11 December, around 11pm, a single Iranian woman was
> stopped at the RPC3 gate by a group of Wilson Security guards, five
> men and one woman.  The female guard was an Australian national.
> When the woman entered the gate, a male guard searched her with a
> security wand. According to the new rule, apparently put into force
> around 6 December, a woman is required to spread her legs and her arms
> for such a search.
> This process has been an excuse for intimidating and abusive behaviour
> since it was implemented. Male guards have made the the searches
> intrusive and threatening. The wands are waved between the woman’s
> legs and often waved repeatedly over her breasts.
> The humiliating and threatening elements of such seaches are obvious,
> even if such searches are conducted by female guards in the presence
> of male guards.
> On the night on 11 December, the lranian woman was alone. She refused
> to spread her legs or arms for the male guard. Her refusal then bought
> a demand from the female guard told her she would have to lift up her
> T shirt and bra ‘because maybe you have something.” This was done in
> front of the male guards.
> After she had lifted her T shirt and bra, the female guard told her
> you have to go to a small room and remove all your clothes. The woman
> refused to go into the room, but did hand her ID to the female guard.
> However, when she tried to leave, a male guard stood in her way,
> repeating that she had to go into the small room at the guardhouse and
> remove her clothes. Anxious and frightened, at the whole situation,
> she refused but was forced to push past the male guard to leave the
> area.
> This asylum seeker, a previous victim of sexual assault and harassment
> inside the family camp was visited by Wilson’s officials who confirmed
> the new rules that allowed body searches.
> A few days after the search and after she had made an official
> complaint, the Iranian asylum seeker, told the Refugee Action
> Coalition, “I was very embarrassed and humiliated [by the searches],”
> On 18 December, this woman was asked to provide a second statement to
> two Wilson’s investigator who refused to give her a copy of the
> statement, but said it would report to ‘his boss in Sydney’.
> Despite the official complaints, the search regime is still in place.
> At the second interview the Wilson official confirmed that there are
> new search rules and repeated that she must spread her legs and arms
> to be searched, and that if the guards  believe you ‘have something’
> they can conduct a body search.
> “These instances of reported abuse on Nauru at the hands of Wilson
> guards are particularly shocking given the scale of abuse that has
> been uncovered and confirmed by previous Australian government and
> Senate inquiries. That a government contractor could put new search
> rules in place that allow for the continued abuse of vulnerable women
> on Nauru is inexcusable,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the
> Refugee Action Coalition.
> “It is impossible to describe the distress of the women who are
> subject to the demeaning and intrusive searches. It does amount to
> officially sanctioned sexual abuse.
> “It makes a mockery of the idea of that the detention centre on Nauru
> is an ‘open centre.’ It also makes a mockery of Malcolm Turnbull’s
> government’s supposed concern with violence against women – when the
> government turns a blind eye to the abuse of female asylum seekers and
> refugees on Nauru.
> “It is urgent that the new search regime is immediately ended. The
> searches have added an additional threatening dimension to detention
> on Nauru which is already overshadowed by violent sexual attacks
> outside of the detention centre.”
> For more information, contact Ian Rintoul , mob 0417 275 713.


Refugee Action Coalition


Around 200 asylum seekers on bridging visas and refugees with
temporary protection visas (TPV) will stage a day-long protest, this
Friday, 11 December, outside the Sydney offices of the Department of
Immigration and Border Protection at 22 Lee Street. (Details below)

The protesters plan to stay outside the Immigration office from around
10.00am to 5.00pm. The protest will call for the right to work for
asylum seekers in the community; for the department to end the delays
in processing their claims and for permanent protection not TPVs for
those found to be in need of protection.

The Sydney protest follows a similar protest held in Canberra on 13
November, when around 250 bridging visa holders and their supporters
rallied outside Parliament House.

The protesters, mostly Iraqi asylum seekers and refugees, represent
the almost 30,000 asylum seekers in the community, many of them left
waiting for three years without even being interviewed., and denied
the right to ever see their families.

“In December 1014, the Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison promised
that people in the community on bridging visas would be given the
right to work. But that hasn’t happened. They have been left
destitute, while the Immigration department deliberately delays any
assessment of their refugee claims,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson
for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The delays; the misery and uncertainty inflicted on asylum seekers
and refugees in the community is the flip-side of the brutality
inflicted offshore, on Manus and Nauru.”

Under Coalition policy, asylum seekers who arrive by boat, and who are
found to be refugees will only be granted temporary protection visas,
and are therefore denied the right to travel and the right to be
re-united with their families, many of whom themselves have been left
in dangerous situations.

Protest: Bridging visa holders breaking the silence: 10.00am-5.00pm
Speak-out: 12.00-1.30pm, Friday 11 December
Immigration Department, 26 Lee St, Sydney.

Speakers include: Lee Rhiannon, NSW Greens Senator; Iraqi refugee;
Michael Thompson, NTEU and Unions for Refugees; Jenny Haines, Labor
for Refugees; Refugee Action Coalition

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

Teachers take action for refugees on Human Rights Day

Teachers take action for refugees on Human Rights Day

Teachers at schools in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will participate in group actions tomorrow (December 10th) for Human Rights Day, holding banners at schools calling for the government to “close the camps, welcome refugees”, and for “education not detention”.

The Australian Education Union Victoria has called for members to participate and the NSW Teachers’ Fed and Federal AEU are encouraging members to tweet selfies to the hashtag #educationnotdetention.

Asylum seekers detained on Manus Island have responded to the planned action with a letter of thanks and support (in full below); “Thanks you for standing up for us, when the entire world is silent. We deeply appreciate your support… Your action can give us energy to continue to struggle in this hell that is Manus Island. [Your actions] prove that there are many people who do care about us and that they are against mandatory detention.”.

The action follows the stopwork at Yeronga High School in Brisbane where teachers demand the return year 12 student Mojgan Shamsalipoor who was forcibly transferred to a Darwin detention centre and threatened with deportation to danger in Iran.

Lucy Honan, teacher at St Albans Secondary College in Melbourne’s North West says staff at her school are participating in the action at lunch on Thursday because “all students deserve supportive schools and security, not the abuse we have seen in offshore prisons, or threats of deportation to danger.

“This school and suburb wouldn’t exist if “boat people” and refugees had been excluded after World War II and the Vietnam war. It is cruelty and madness that the billions of dollars spent isolating and abusing refugees on Manus and Nauru isn’t spent on our schools and resettling refugees in the community.”

Sydney teacher Tim Davis-Frank says “How can we teach students not to bully if we stand by while the government scapegoats and bullies asylum seekers? The Border Force act is supposed to stop teachers, and health care and social workers from speaking out against the government’s refugee policy. But we won’t be silenced.”

Teachers in hundreds of schools will take part. Schools confirmed to
be participating in the action to date include

Sydney: Glebe Public School, Beverley Hills Intensive English Centre
(see photo below),
Chatswood Intensive English Centre

Brisbane: Yeronga State High School

Melbourne: St Albans Secondary College, Mount Alexander College, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Fairfield Primary School (see photo below), Sunshine Secondary College, Innerwest regional AEU meeting. 

12311313_1063980180289383_2237356602243612921_n Fairfield4Refugges

#EducationNotDetention #freetherefugees and tweeted to @TurnbullMalcolm

Contact Lucy Honan 0404728104 Tim Davis-Frank 0467035515
Letter from Manus Island asylum seekers to Australian teachers:

We want to begin by saying thanks very much to all of you – to the
wonderful teachers who are taking part in this powerful action today

Thanks you for standing up for us, when the entire world is silent. We
deeply appreciate your support for this rally. Your action can give us
energy to continue to struggle in this hell that is Manus Island.
[Your actions] prove that there are many people who do care about us
and that they are against mandatory detention.

There are many teachers among us and we need you to tell the truth for
us, about the Manus Island hell, to the Australian government and to
all the the people that we should be free.

The government has imprisoned us, 900 asylum seekers for 29 months on
Manus Island. The situation is utterly inhuman and difficult over this
period. We have been under heavy mental pressure and many of us can’t
sleep without sedatives because of the torture we have endured here

We have lost two of our friends – one when we were attacked by locals
and another because of the lack of health facilities.

The government has done everything to persecute us. We desperately
request the government to end their illegal detention of us in this

Just like other refugees in Australia we need safety and resettlement
in a safe place
We do not have the option to come legally to Australia because of
on-going war in our homelands but it is not illegal to arrive by boat
to seek protection.

The government has used us for blackmail and their own political
interest. The Australian government [detention] contractors like
Transfield are making money from human abuses.

We are not criminals, we are good people, like others seeking help and
safety place. We know that teachers are people who can understand the
agony that we suffer. Teachers have so often been part of the
struggles to make the world a safer place and part of struggles for
justice and equality.
It is true that if there were no teachers in the world, we will live
in darkness…
Finally of the teachers and all of us on Manus Island, we want to say
thank you very much for taking your time to participate in this
powerful action that will send a message to many people around
Australia and around the world.
With your help , one day we will be free.
We wish one day to repay you

from Manus Asylum seekers