Currently viewing the tag: "Darwin 2012"

Refugee activists, part of the refugee convergence in Darwin have condemned the threats and intimidation of asylum seekers in the Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC).

According to reports from inside the detention centre, asylum seekers in the NIDC were warned not to take part in any protest inside the detention centre. The threats were meant to prevent any response from the asylum seeker to the protests that have taken place outside the detention centre.

Around 200 Serco guards were posted inside NIDC although there are only around 100 asylum seekers and Indonesian asylum boat crew and fisher-folk.

Asylum seekers were told that any indication of protest — ‘even if you jump up or wave your hands’ — that their files would be sent to the Federal Police. They were also told that planned moves out of the detention would be indefinitely stalled if they took part in any protest activity.

NIDC has developed a deserved reputation as the worst of the detention centres as far as self harm and attempted suicide.

“The threats against asylum seekers is a further violation of asylum seekers’ human rights. It is no crime to claim asylum in Australia. It is no crime to protest against the inhumanity of mandatory detention. Serco and the Immigration Department keep a ‘cone of silence’ atound the detention centres,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

Despite the threats, asylum seekers did join in protest activity this (Sunday) afternoon, as protesters gathered on the Stuart Highway outside the detention centre.

The NIDC protest followed a successful action at the Wickham Point detention centre that saw 7 interstate protesters arrested for trespass after they scaled a hill overlooking the sprawling detention facility.

There are unconfirmed reports that some asylum seekers in the newly opened detention centre have staged a hunger strike in protest to the arrests of protesters and the cancellation of visits over the Easter weekend.

“Successful protests at all Darwin detention centres have made sure that the asylum seekers know there is a movement outside the fences that will continue to campaign to end mandatory detention and close the detention centres,” said Ian Rintoul.

Further protests will take place on Easter Monday at detention centres tomorrow in Darwin, Perth. Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

For more information contact Ian Rintoul on 0417 275 713.

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Seven people from several Australian cities were arrested by Northern Territory police for trying to make contact with refugees inside the Wickham Point Detention Centre outside Darwin.

They were out at the remote site to show support to the 500 people locked up there for legally seeking asylum in Australia. The protest occurred the day after a refugee inside Wickham Point tried to commit suicide.

“This protest was meant to be a message to the Australian public and politicians that people are prepared to come out in these 40 degree conditions, and are prepared to challenge the police that defend a detention centre that locks up innocent people,” Jay Fletcher, spokesperson for the Easter refugee convergence said.

“Wickham Point is Australia’s newest and biggest detention centre, the government has built it to lock up 1500 people. But this site is considered ‘unfit for human habitation’ and locking up people in the middle of nowhere so no one can see them and help them.

“This system kills people, it has been killing people for 20 years.”

Police and private security had blocked the entrance to the centre when about 35 refugee supporters arrived. Last Thursday, representatives from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and private detention contractor Serco banned four refugee advocates from officially visiting the asylum seekers inside.

Mark Goudkamp, among the seven arrested, said: “The ‘approved site’ for our protest at Wickham Point was out of earshot and out of sight from the people we’d travelled across the country to support. Our simple attempt to reach an elevated point where we could interact with the asylum seekers, albeit still from a long distance, is clearly not what DIAC, Serco or the police want us to do.”

For more information, contact Jay Fletcher on 0438 819 131.

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Reliable reports from inside the Wickham Point detention centre indicate that an asylum seeker has been hospitalised following a self-harm incident at the new detention centre.
The news has shocked the refugee protesters already gathered in Darwin over Easter to draw attention to the reality of mandatory detention.

“We had already planned a protest at Wickham Point, but this report will give an added urgency to the protest,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the refugee Darwin refugee convergence.

“The Immigration Department bragged about the facilities at Wickham Point. It was only opened in December 2011. It was meant to be a model alternative to the toxic environment at NIDC, but this incident shows that a cage is still a cage.”

Refugee supporters will target Darwin’s newest and biggest detention centre, Wickham Point, tomorrow, Sunday 8 April, 11am.

Successful protests on Saturday morning saw asylum seekers take to the roof of NIDC to respond to the protesters outside the detention centre. Hundreds more families and children at Darwin’s Airport Lodge held makeshift banners and placards to greet the refugee supporters on Saturday afternoon.

Following Sunday’s protest at Wickham Point, the refugee convergence will stage a picket of Robertson barracks on the Stuart Highway to highlight the hypocrisy of welcoming a permanent US base to Darwin, while down the road, Afghan asylum seekers, the victims of persecution in Afghanistan are held in detention centres.

“It is more than ironic that the Australian government pretends that US and Australian troops are in Afghanistan to ‘make Afghanistan safe’ while those they are meant to protect are imprisoned when they seek safety in Australia,” said Ian Rintoul.

For more information, contact Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713.

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Reliable reports from inside the Wickham Point detention centre indicate that an asylum seeker has been hospitalised following a self-harm incident at the new detention centre.
The news has shocked the refugee protesters already gathered in Darwin over Easter to draw attention to the reality of mandatory detention.

“We had already planned a protest at Wickham Point, but this report will give an added urgency to the protest,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the refugee Darwin refugee convergence.

“The Immigration Department bragged about the facilities at Wickham Point. It was only opened in December 2011. It was meant to be a model alternative to the toxic environment at NIDC, but this incident shows that a cage is still a cage.”

Refugee supporters will target Darwin’s newest and biggest detention centre, Wickham Point, tomorrow, Sunday 8 April, 11am.

Successful protests on Saturday morning saw asylum seekers take to the roof of NIDC to respond to the protesters outside the detention centre. Hundreds more families and children at Darwin’s Airport Lodge held makeshift banners and placards to greet the refugee supporters on Saturday afternoon.

Following Sunday’s protest at Wickham Point, the refugee convergence will stage a picket of Robertson barracks on the Stuart Highway to highlight the hypocrisy of welcoming a permanent US base to Darwin, while down the road, Afghan asylum seekers, the victims of persecution in Afghanistan are held in detention centres.

“It is more than ironic that the Australian government pretends that US and Australian troops are in Afghanistan to ‘make Afghanistan safe’ while those they are meant to protect are imprisoned when they seek safety in Australia,” said Ian Rintoul.

For more information, contact Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713.

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Numerous notes pushed through the wire, and messages crushed into paper balls thrown over the fence greeted around 50 refugee protesters at Darwin’s Airport Lodge this (Friday) afternoon.

Hundreds of faces peered through the fence, fathers held the children over the fence while other lined verandah’s to shout their cries for help and welcome to the protesters.

One desperate note read, “ I feel so sad, please help, I’m very boring I just 10 yeas (sic) old but I stay in detention 1 yeas (sic). I want to be free please help me. Some time I very crazy. And I cut my hand three time but nobody know that.”

DAL holds around 400 asylum seekers, including 100 children.

“How many people would know that almost 500 children are still in immigration detention across Australia?” asked Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

The protest at DAL followed a successful march by 150 refugee supporters through the streets of central Darwin, Australia’s detention capital.

MORE PROTESTS

Protesters, part of the Easter refugee convergence on Darwin will assemble at Northern Immigration Detention Centre at 10am on Saturday. NIDC holds over 100 asylum seekers and Indonesian asylum boat crew and fisher-folk.

“We are going to NIDC to expose the plight of the long term detainees many victims of the mental illness factories for mental illness after months and years in detention. And we are going back to the Airport Lodge in the afternoon to make good our promise to come back and let them know that there is a campaign still fighting to end mandatory detention and free the refugees.”

On Sunday, refugee activist will move their protest to Wickham Point, Darwin’s newest detention centre, presently holding 800 asylum seekers

On Monday, refugee supporters will make common cause with Aboriginal activists and supporters calling or an end to the NT Intervention that has seen incarceration rates of Aboriginal people rise by 40 per cent.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

Easter Monday will also see refugee protests in Sydney (meeting noon at Chester Hill railway station to march to Villawood); in Perth (2.30pm at Perth detention centre) and in Melbourne (meeting 2pm at Broadmeadows).

For more information contact Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713

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Refugee activists have condemned Serco and the Immigration department’s ban on visits to Darwin’s detention centres over the Easter weekend.

Even before protests were scheduled to start, Serco and the Immigration department banned visits to the detention centres.

Although visits to Darwin’s newest detention centre, Wickham Point, had been approved and confirmed for Thursday evening, a DIAC officer,at the gate, stopped visitors who had come from Sydney and Melbourne, to tell them that all visits had been cancelled for “operational reasons”.

No protest had been planned for Wickham Point until Sunday, but it seems that visiting at all Darwin’s detention centres have been banned until Tuesday.

“This is a ridiculous lock-out that has the potential to blow up in Serco’s face,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the refugee activists’ convergence on Darwin. “Last year a similar ban on activists’ visits resulted in a mass hunger strike by asylum seekers at Curtin detention centre.

“The ban is typical of Serco’s arbitrary and unaccountable management of detention centres. Detainees, aware of the interstate Easter visits for weeks, have been shamefully left waiting for visits that won’t happen. The lock-out will also apply to local people that have been regularly visiting asylum seekers.

“The visiting ban makes a mockery of the “people our business’ slogan and the supposed ‘detention values’ of the Immigration department,” said Ian Rintoul, “Darwin has become the detention capital of Australia. Twenty years after the introduction of mandatory detention, there are still thousands of asylum seekers and hundreds of children in detention.”

The weekend of protest will begin with a rally and march through the centre of Darwin, starting at noon at Parliament House and marching via DIAC offices to a bar-b-q at Christ Church Cathedral. This will be followed by a protest on Saturday at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre at 10.00am and then a ‘family-friendly’ protest in the afternoon, at the Darwin Airport Lodge which is holding over 350 children and families. The NIDC also hold Indonesian fishermen and crew of asylum boats.

On Sunday, a protest will be held at Wickham Point, which holds around 800 asylum seekers and which will soon be expanded even further.

For more information contact Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713.

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Over the Easter weekend, refugee rights activists from around Australia will converge on Darwin, Australia’s detention capital, to show solidarity with detained refugees, and demand and end to the inhumane indefinite detention policies.

It promises to be an enormous weekend of activity — we hope to see you at some of the following events:

Friday April 6:

Planning meeting for the weekend’s activities: 8am, Girl Guides Hall, Ross Smith Ave, Parap;

Rally to free the refugees! 12 noon,Parliament House- March through the CBD, then join us for a BBQ and speakers at Christ Church Cathedral. For info or transport (no public transport that day) call 0429 694 083

Saturday April 7:

Protest at NIDC, 10am. Park on the corner of Berrimah Road and Stuart Hwy (ie at Roadhouse or WoW electronics) and walk towards city. NIDC is not far along the highway, at the Berrimah Barracks on the left hand side of the hwy.

Kids out of detention! 1pm, Darwin Airport Lodge. Child and family-focused rally at the DAL, where families and unaccompanied minors are held. Bring balloons. toys, bells and whistles, clown outfits etc.

Rock against Racism, 5pm @ The Rock- Doctor’s Gully

Sunday April 8

Rally at Wickham Point 11am – meet in the carpark/ entrance. Please BYO weather protection, water, snacks. For transport, call Emma: 0488 208 235

Monday April 9

Defend the Homelands! No to Stronger Futures! (organised by Darwin Aboriginal Rights Coalition) 10am Civic Park (near Darwin City Council)

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From April 6–9, refugee rights activists from around the country will be in Darwin to visit refugees detained here by the Australian government.  It will mark 10 years since the refugee rights movement’s first Easter convergence at Woomera in 2002 and 20 years of mandatory detention policies.

Speakers

  • Hadi Hosseini, Afghan Hazara refugee
  • Marcus Hampson, Refugee Rights Action Network WA
  • June Mills, Larrakia activist and performer

Noon, Friday April 6, at Parliament House, Darwin

Rally will be followed by a march to DIAC and then a BBQ at Christ Church Cathedral. There will be no public transport that day, so please make other arrangements.

For more details, call Peter 0429 694 083 or visit www.dassan.org.  A flyer for the event is available here.

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When we again protest during Easter next year, it will mark 10 years since the refugee rights movement’s first Easter convergence— Woomera 2002 — when busloads of protesters from across the country met magnificent protests by detainees, many of whom leapt through the fence and literally into the arms of the movement.
A decade on, and four years into the Labor government, the level of self-harm and suicide in detention are, if anything, higher than they were during the worst of the Howard-Ruddock regime. As of 31 October 2011, 4223 people were being held in detention, the vast majority of them “irregular maritime arrivals”, as asylum seekers are called in DIAC-speak.
They included 1246 from Afghanistan (who’ve fled ethnic persecution and the chaos of the past 10 years of western military occupation), 1095 from Iran (who were heralded as freedom fighters when they dared to defy Ahmadinejad’s rigged election outcome in 2009), and a further 424 mainly Tamils from Sri Lanka (whose murderous head of state was recently feted by Julia Gillard at CHOGM in Perth).
370 children remained in detention, despite the promise in October 2010 to have all families out by the end of June. A further 1231 (including 512 kids) were being held under community residence determination, bringing the total to 5454. And this doesn’t include the 100s of Indonesian asylum boat crew (including scores of minors) being held in adult Australian jails.
Chris Bowen’s piecemeal bridging visa announcement of will barely make a dent in the monumental misery caused by mandatory detention. Far from dismantling detention, with the opening of Pontville in Tasmania, there are now detention facilities in every Australian state and territory other than the ACT.
Bowen’s phoney proposition to increase the refugee intake from 13,750 to 20,000 is tied to an acceptance of offshore processing—notably his near universally condemned Malaysia refugee swap plan.
Why Darwin?
Darwin is rapidly becoming Australia’s detention capital. Chronic levels of self-harm and protest have put the Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC) in a state of perpetual crisis. And while numbers vary, since this convergence was announced, between 170 and 341 are languishing at NIDC, with scores more at the Darwin Airport Lodge “Alternative Place of Detention”.
As mental health nurse and former staff member at NIDC Ena Grigg told Lateline this week, “Being locked in a prison with not knowing how you are going to get out or when you are going to get out or why you are even there, and not getting any answers as to how they can get out is driving people mad.”
Within days, the government will open the first compound of the Wickham Point detention centre, located an hour outside Darwin in mosquito-infested swampland. 170-180 ‘clients’ are expected to be transported by Xmas to what is supposedly a facility for people on ‘positive pathways’, but which in reality is as bad as the worst that mandatory detention has created. It has two fences, the outer one with electricity, and the inner with a pressure sensitive alarm.
When asked why the site was so far from town (100 km round trip from Darwin CBD and 60 km roundtrip from NIDC, no public transportation available), DIAC responded that the “government has had facilities in very remote locations before.”
A convergence centred on Darwin, with simultaneous protests at as many other detention centres as our resilient movement can muster, can again focus attention on the reality behind the wire.
Darwin is set to become the military capital of Australia, with the massive new US military base announced during Barack Obama’s recent visit there. In addition, converging on Darwin provides the refugee movement with an opportunity to deepen our links with Aboriginal communities, who for more than four years have been resisting the hugely negative impacts of the NT Intervention.
Together with other national initiatives—from the events held around the 20th anniversary of mandatory detention on 6 May, to mass demonstrations on World Refugee Day around 20 June—the Easter convergence can ensure that the national grassroots refugee rights movement remains on the front foot against a government that is increasingly defensive about its punitive refugee and asylum seeker policies.

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The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) yesterday referred the names of 27 Vietnamese unaccompanied minors who are being detained at the Darwin Airport Lodge (DAL) to the Northern Territory Child Protection Services. Northern Territory law obliges people to alert the child protection services if they believe that a child has or is likely to suffer harm or exploitation. Harm is defined in the relevant legislation to include psychological or emotional harm.

The children, the youngest of whom is seven years old, have been locked up in immigration detention since May 2011 and were moved to the DAL earlier this week from Port Augusta in South Australia. Darwin detention centres have seen countless numbers of suicide attempts and self harm incidents in the past 12 months. DASSAN is aware of children in the DAL that have self harmed and are on medication as a result of their incarceration.

DASSAN spokesperson Rohan Thwaites stated, “The Government has been told by countless mental health professionals about the harmful affects of locking up children in immigration detention, yet they continue to do it. These children are at risk of psychological or emotional harm as a result of being detained and they should be removed from the source of the harm, detention centres”

Mr Thwaites stated, “Mr Bowen should be removed as the guardian of these children and they should be immediately transferred to the community where they will be able to receive the support and services that they require free from the trauma of detention centres.”

Mr Thwaites added, “In October 2011 the Government said it would remove most children from detention, acknowledging that incarceration harms their mental health and development, and yet here we are in February 2012 and there are approximately 170 children detained in Darwin alone. The Government must pledge to remove all children from detention and then stick to that pledge.”

For media comment, Rohan Thwaites DASSAN: 0402 555 841

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