General hunger strike at Villawood Immigration and Detention Centre (Nov 8, 2008)

Statement from people in Villawood
Saturday Nov8

After months and sometimes years of indignant treatment, the detainees of the Villawood Immigration and Detention Centre announce a general hunger strike demanding that this open ended policy of indefinite indignity ends.
At a time when the economic realities of the day demand cost reductions everywhere, it is anathema to common sense that the Labor Government still insists on spending millions of taxpayer dollars on a policy the benefit of which is in doubt.

We call on the Labor Party, particularly Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Christopher Evans, who in a March 25th 2005 interview at Parliament House Canberra, was adamant in his call for a royal commission into detention, to:

  1. Codify as soon as practicable into the law, his stated intentions that no one spend more than 3 months in detention.
  2. Require that any decision made to deny a person release from detention on the basis that he’s a risk to the community, be based upon an assessment done by a qualified mental health professional. At this time, such assessments are currently made “on the papers” by bureaucrats far away in Canberra with no formal mental health qualifications or arbitrarily made due to sentences of imprisonment which in some cases have long since expired. The Australian public have a right to expect that decisions made in their name are made by people who are qualified to do so.
  3. Release people with ongoing visa matters before the courts. As it stands now people are effectively “punished” for several years by the Migration Act for choosing to appeal against the Minister’s decision to not grant or to cancel a visa.
  4. Cease and desist (after every decision unfavourable to the department) from amending the Migration Act to circumvent the judicial process of Australia’s courts. A recent example of this were cases that found that cancellation of certain visas were unlawful notwithstanding the existence of a criminal conviction and sentence of imprisonment and that required notification processes were not met. The department released people affected by this decision and allowed them to restart their lives only change the law in the middle of the night and negate the court’s findings, thus making some of them liable to detention again with out natural justice.
  5. Cease and desist from taking “clients” to the high security compound, Stage-1, prior to their anticipated removal from Australia. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) has roundly criticised this facility and if detention itself wasn’t enough of a slap in the face, the indignity is made complete by showing unsuccessful visa applicants the front door by way of a compound with all the ambiance of Long Bay Gaol.

We appeal to the Australian community to look beyond the constant stream of 30 second sound-bytes and one paragraph press releases that are used to justify this treatment. We also respectfully ask Australians for the same dignity and respect for human rights in this country that you would demand for an Australian in another country.
The policy of indefinite detention has been in effect for nearly 2 decades and has cost billions. The only true return on the Australian taxpayer’s investment is the permanent psychological damage that a voiceless people have had to endure and the large portions of their lives taken from them in the name of political expedience.

Pamela Curr Campaign coordinatorAsylum Seeker Resource Centre 12 Batman St., Melbourne 3003 Ph 03 93266006 / Fax 03 93265199

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