Fourth Death in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre

RISE: Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees Media Release

In the early hours of the morning, on Wednesday 26th October 2011, RISE was given the tragic news that “S”, a 27 year old Sri Lankan Tamil refugee from Villawood Immigration Detention centre (IDC) in the suburbs of Sydney, killed himself after drinking poison. 

This day marked 2 years and 24 days of S’s mandatory and indefinite incarceration in Australia’s Immigration detention network.  It also marked “Deepavali” (The Festival of Light) that he, as a Hindu, wished to celebrate at his friend’s house.  The day before Deepavali, S received the news that his application to visit his friend’s house with SERCO escorts had been rejected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.  SERCO officers had inspected the house sometime back and had indicated to his friend that they were satisfied with the layout of the house.

With limited access to legal and other welfare support services for asylum seekers and refugees this man was among many whose application for refugee status was rejected twice in Christmas island IDC after they arrived by boat to seek asylum.  S was finally accepted in August 2011 as a refugee, after the long struggle to get through the days in a non-transparent, hostile immigration detention environment including witnessing 3 deaths of  fellow detainees who committed suicide in the space of 3 months in Villawood IDC.

All 8 who protested on the roof with “S” were subsequently recognised as refugees, but now, just three have been released with a visa, while the rest are still being held indefinitely in detention.  One of these detainees is undergoing treatment for tuberculosis after repeated requests for medical treatment for more than a year.  All of these detained refugees, including S, applied for community detention.

At the time of his death, S was held in the “housing” area.  This is the same area in which a family (including 3 children) from the boat the Oceanic Viking are being held.  Like S, they too have been detained for more than 2 years.  Refugees with adverse security assessments held in other parts of Villawood IDC were informed on 25th October 2011, that they would be transferred to the housing area.  One of these men, refused to move, with the statement that this was nothing more than “housing arrest” and did nothing to solve the problem of being detained indefinitely without any offer of a durable solution in sight. 
Throughout his time in detention, S had been quite active in asserting his rights and questioning the actions of SERCO and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship that had kept him arbitrarily detained and moved haphazardly about Villawood IDC, particularly in the last 12 months of his incarceration. These actions included S's detention in isolation as well as SERCO staff conveniently removing him and the family from the Oceanic Viking from their rooms when the Australian Human Rights Commission came to Villawood IDC to interview detainees in the "housing" area. This latter act was considerably suspect given that these two parties had been in detention much longer than the other detainees in the "housing" area.

Just after he got his refugee status, a RISE advocate took down some notes in the faint hope that S would have his visa and soon be able to access our settlement program.  He had years of work experience in Welding (including Gas cutting and X-ray welding) and had worked in the construction industry. Sadly, S's hope to settle and start a new life in Australia will now never come to pass.

To quote a refugee from Villawood detention centre: “Detention in Australia is like tying a person’s hands and putting food in front of him, which he cannot eat; after some time he loses his appetite and he doesn’t feel like eating it anymore.  That is how we feel about life after we have been in detention.”

RISE Media Unit
Refugee Survivors and Ex-detainees
247 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Victoria 3000.
Donate http://www.givenow.com.au/riserefugee
T:(03)9639 8623|M:0430 007 586|F:(03)9650 3689|Email:www.riserefugee.org/


Decolonise Occupy Auckland : Marama speaks for Maori women

Marama Davidson a member of Te Wharepora Hou gave an update on what is  happening at Occupy Auckland on Wednesday Oct 19, 2011 at Aotea Centre.

Occupy Melbourne Arrests showcase Melbourne’s slide into lawlessness

MEDIA RELEASE 24 OCTOBER 2011 Occupy Melbourne Arrests showcase Melbourne’s slide into lawlessness Staff from the Fitzroy Legal Service attended as legal support on Friday 21 October 2011 as the Occupy Melbourne collective were moved on and dispersed by police horses, dogs, and around 200 members of the Victorian Police Force.

Having attended a good many sites in a similar capacity, staff observed the protestors to be remarkably peaceful. Of significance, there were no observations of criminal damage, projectiles, or violent struggle in arrest. This was despite the enormous police presence (which was not far from outnumbering protesters), provocative tactics, extensive injuries, and what seemed to be a complete and utter lack of regard for safety and wellbeing of community members in attendance.

 Meghan Fitzgerald Lawyer at the Fitzroy Legal Service says: “The use of horses to ride directly into the crowd was appalling, and a measure that ordinary people would consider appropriate only in cases of dire emergency and public risk. When you decide to do that serious injuries are almost inevitable, and really call into question the role of the police in serving and protecting the community.

I personally observed a significant number of injuries amongst those arrested, including children. “The central issue is that political demonstration is a democratic right, and should be given significant protection by the State. Justifying this kind of aggressive use of force because of inconvenience or embarrassment is really a sign that we need to have a good look at human rights protection in this State.”

The numbers of people arrested was close to one hundred, with the vast majority released without charge. One of the big questions is how has a local council come to assume such power to silence political speech and demonstration, and who in government or police command authorized the militaristic policing approaches that were engaged? The rule of law and transparency of government action demands clear responses to these and other questions. Meghan Fitzgerald, Lawyer at the Fitzroy Legal Service says, “The people of Melbourne have a right to know who authorized this level of use of force to be unleashed on peaceful civilians. “It is irrelevant whether you agree or disagree with demonstrators.

The real issue is how important is freedom of political speech, and should peaceful demonstrators walk away with serious injuries and/ or in fear and trauma? If anything, these actions will strengthen some of the core messages of the protest, that the decision making of the powerful does not represent the views or interests of the majority of Victorians. Most Victorians believe the right to protest is worth fighting for, and that people gathering peacefully to express their views should not be subject to violence of any kind.”

For further media comment: Meghan Fitzgerald, Fitzroy Legal Service 0450 977 447