On Thursday, December 15, the Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) held a vigil and performative action to remember over 4,000 asylum seekers and refugees that will languish in immigration detention over Christmas. Supporters and activists, and passers-by helped to light the 4,000 candles and keep them alight over a few hours as musicians performed and passers-by stopped to talk to us about the issue, and sign petitions to stop the deportation of a Hazara asylum seeker, Ismail.
Recent changes to the immigration process with some asylum seekers released into the community under ‘bridging visas’ whilst their claims are being processed are welcome, but sadly do not spell the end of mandatory detention. A new detention centre continues to be built at Wickham point near Darwin. The rate of release on bridging visas will be torturously slow, 100 per month would mean 1200 a year, but there are over 2000 people who have been in detention over a year.
Who will be eligible for release remains unclear. This is the kind of uncertainty, that is already one of the main causes of tension within detention centres. The uncertainty is also mental torture for detaineees. The process must be made immediately transparent.
The Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) will be part of a national rally in Sydney on Sunday outside the ALP National Conference demanding an end to mandatory detention and offshore processing as the conference debates the Labor Party platform on offshore processing, particularly the future of the currently suspended ‘Malaysian solution.’ If Chris Bowen and Julia Gillard were serious about humane refugee policy, they would change the law to scrap offshore processing, rather than try to put it in the ALP platform.
“The recent changes don’t go far enough. There are still thousands in detention, which causes incidents of self-harm, and attempted suicides. Three stateless Faili Kurd Asylum seekers have stiched their lips and are on hunger strike in Darwin. The bridging visas have not helped them. There are 600 stateless asylum seekers who should be released immediately. The minister has the power to do so.
“Now the Malasyia deal is suspended, the government seems expediently concerned to make the refugee detention system more manageable, rather than ending the system. But the problem will not stop until every single asylum seeker is released from these concentration camps,” said Benjamin Solah, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Collective (Victoria).