Refugee Action Coalition Press Release Friday 22 April 2011Following this week’s unrest at the Villawood detention centre, refugee rights advocates will stage a mass show of support for Villawood detainees on Easter Monday, 25 April. Refugee supporters will meet at Chester Hill station at 12 noon, before marching to the Gurney Rd side of the detention centre for a rally in support of the detainees. Called by the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC), the action is part of a nationwide series of protests outside detention centres planned over the Easter weekend, including at the remote Curtin facility in Western Australia.
The rally will hear from refugees who were formerly detained: Najeeba Wazefadost (Afghanistan); Iraj Moghodam (Iran); and Mohammed Ali Muttari (Iraq). Melina Adlparvar, an Iranian refugee separated from her husband who is inside Villawood, will also speak. They will be joined by: Annie Neilson, Greens candidate for Fairfield in the NSW election; NSW Teachers' Federation General-Secretary Jenny Diamond; and Mark Goudkamp, a long-term Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson.
“The recent unrest in Villawood makes it extremely urgent to show community support for refugees”, said Nick Riemer from RAC. “It’s an extraordinary irony that both Labor and Coalition politicians talk of refugees having committed crimes. The damage to property on Wednesday night is nothing compared to the brutalisation of innocent lives caused by mandatory detention itself. Asylum seekers haven’t committed any crime and shouldn’t be imprisoned. It’s not illegal to arrive by boat and ask Australia for protection. When you lock people up and treat them like animals, it’s entirely predictable that they will be driven to desperate acts. There have been five suicides in detention since September, three in Villawood, and countless cases of self-harm. Hunger strikes happen all the time. If the government had acted on the advice of leading psychiatrists, this week’s events could have been prevented. As one of the banners of the rooftop protesters emphasises, they are human and deserve to be treated that way. If we’re talking about crimes being committed, it’s the government who are the wrongdoers by sticking to their failed and discredited policy of mandatory detention.”
“The rally will show solidarity with the refugees locked up in Villawood”, said Mark Goudkamp, also from RAC. “All asylum seekers want is to escape the war and persecution that have driven them from their home countries. But instead of treating them with decency, and allowing them to contribute to Australian society, the government locks them up. Australia is the only Western country that does this. Monday’s protest can show that the Daily Telegraph’s politically driven online polls by do not represent all Australians. 22 asylum seekers were forcibly removed from their beds on Thursday night and transferred to Silverwater jail. On Christmas Island, police used tear gas and beanbag rounds on asylum seekers. This is no way to treat refugees. Mr Bowen says he shares the anger of Australians about damage to government property. Instead, Australians should direct their rage at the pointless violence and brutality inflicted on asylum seekers. While Mr Bowen should be congratulated for supporting the idea of multiculturalism in Australia and ending the Howard government’s disparagement of it, if he really means it, the policy of mandatory detention policy must be immediately abandoned.”
“The government keeps refugees out of the public eye and detains them in inaccessible places”, said Riemer. “The Gurney Rd entrance to Villawood is the only place from which we can make visual contact with them. Refugee Action Coalition members are regular visitors to the detention centre. Our friends inside are looking forward to seeing a vocal and colourful demonstration of support.”
“There’s significant support for refugees among Villawood locals, who remember what their suburb was like before the barbed wire went up in the early 1990s,” Goudkamp added. “We expect that many residents will join us in showing solidarity with the refugees.”