Exile on Main Street

They hit him and he fell from here and they hit him till he died,” said one asylum seeker. ”They hit him in the head until he died.”

People were down on Main Street Kangaroo Point last night trying to shine a light on Australia’s cruel refugee detention system. For the past 18 months the Australian government has locked up refugees at an obscure refugee detention centre on Main Street Kangaroo Point just a ferry ride and short walk from Brisbane’s CBD. Outwardly it is a hotel were it not for the security guards, inwardly it is a prison. Yet the people held here have committed no crime. They have been jailed here under Medivac bill passed in the federal parliament last year.

Farad a civil engineer who had escaped from Iran was told when he arrived on Christmas island 7 years ago that he would never be settled in Australia. He was exiled to Manus Island, transferred there forcefully from Christmas Island in August 2013. After going through a lot of hardship Farad was brought to Brisbane International Transit Accomodation at Pinkenba (BITA) last April. He needed medical attention after spending 6 years in PNG.

Farad was taken from PNG in July 2019 and brought to Australia. There was a lot of violence on Manus Island. To his amazement he survived ‘a super tough situation‘. He lost some of his friends; one was bashed to death by guards on Manus. A medical doctor who was his roommate on Manus committed suicide last year putting ‘an end to his miserable life’. Another detainee on Manus died of a simple infection unable to get proper medical assistance.

Who killled his friend, an Iranian Kurd Reza Berati, who brought an end to his journey? Was it G4S the security company employed by the Australian government to lock people up on helholes like Manus and Nauru?

Farad was brought from offshore. Unfortunately the Australian government did not end his torture there. He lives in the heart of Brisbane, locked in his room with three others for 23 hours a day and only allowed to go out for a meal. Farad has never walked Brisbane streets. Australians have been locked down for two months, Farad has been in detention for seven years but has not tasted freedom in that time. Successive governments in Australia never gave him a chance.

Andy from the Paradigm Shift interviewed Farad on community radio 4ZZZ fm 102.1 Friday at noon on Friday 15 May a few hours before the weekly protest. The detention centre goes under the acronym of APOD – alternative place of detention. The song played by Andy is by Fear Like Us. They ask ‘Who killed Reza Berati?’

The refugees are not under the social distancing rules for Covid-19. Yet people outside the hotel are being fined under the Covid – 19 rules. What rules apply and to whom?

Local councillor momentarily detained for questioning
There are weekly protests outside the hotel. This Friday 15th May the local councillor for the area, Joanthan Sri, went down and gave this report of the police crackdown with protestors arrested, fined and moved on.  Councillor Sri was instructed by a policewoman that he could not film, could not be there. Here is his report:

Doctor Arrested
A local doctor Karla Emmanuel was approached by members of the police and told she couldn’t carry the sign saying “Covid-19: just one more reason to free the refugees” while exercising, and instructed to leave. “When I returned around the block, they insisted on stopping me, told me they would send me an infringement notice and asked if there was any emergent reason why I should be allowed to stay” Dr Emmanuel said. [ See COVID-19: one more reason to free the refugees (and defend the right to protest) ]

Refugees have been coming out their balconies putting up banners and protesting peacefully. Andy from the Paradigm Shift interviewed one of the protest organisers, Jarrah, about how refugees started the protest on their balconies and people in Brisbane started coming out in solidarity.

Also the 30 or so police in attendance have been instructed to move people on. One 72 year old woman from Spring Hill had this to say about police cracking down:

Not sure what the details of the Covid laws are, as applied to walking along a public street, observing social distancing , carrying no signs, and generally, I think behaving in a way that’s entirely appropriate for a respectable 72 year old lady of inoffensive demeanour.”

“I was told by a police person that walking along Walmsley Street was against the proscriptions of the Covid Law. Can anyone enlighten me on that? Coming from Spring Hill I have been accustomed to being free to walk on public footpaths, so I am curious as to what law I would have been breaking?”

So where to now? The Medivac Laws have worsened the plight of refugees according to Iranian asylum seeker Farad. Under those laws they had no chance of freedom he says.

Liberal independent, Dr Keryn Phelps, who introduced the bill (now repealed) into the federal parliament had this to say in December 2019:

There is an urgent medical crisis in Australia’s offshore detention centres,” she claimed, demanding we “follow the expert advice from Australian doctors” to treat “critically ill people”.

So, of the 184 “critically ill” detainees who have been evacuated under this legislation, how many are in hospital? Answer, none. Most are housed in taxpayer-funded rental accommodation, including hotel rooms and apartments. As of Monday, two-thirds of the 466 refugees and asylum-seekers housed offshore in PNG and Nauru had applied to be brought to Australia under Medivac.

Anti-protest laws under the cover of Covid-19 have limited what can be done outside the hotel. Fines of $1400 will surely exhaust the protestors. Medivac laws got some refugees off Manus and Nauru where the refugees could at least walk around, there they had some freedom, here they are locked up in their rooms 23 hours a day, week in week out.

Mobile Phones to be confiscated
Meanwhile a Bill which gives Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, the power to confiscate mobile phones in detention has been referred to the Legal and Constitutional Senate Committee, and submissions which are due by June 11, 2020.

Mobiles are a lifeline for people locked up in this way. You may express your concern at https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/ProhibitedItems

A new strategy
How do we defy the anti-protest laws in a Covid-19 world? Governments should be made accountable. AUSTRALIANS SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF THEIR GOVERNMENTS. We are all a part of this tragedy. Free the refugees!

There are many groups on the Left who have invested a lot of time and energy in opposition to Australia’s anti-refugee policies. It is a big issue. How has the UN dealt with the millions of refugees? Why have so many tried to seek refuge in Australia that is so racist and so implicated in imperialist wars in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan? What of the colonialist policy of genocide here against indigenous people.

Ian Curr
16 May 2020

Image: People being fined and moved on by Qld police while refugee are in detention at Kangaroo Point Motel in Brisbane http://ondemand.4zzzfm.org.au/paradigm-shift

More Reports – Paradigm Shift 4ZZZ fm 102.1 Fridays at Noon Lockdown on Main Street

N.B. – The title is a reference to the Rolling Stones album ‘Exile on Main Street’  however the Rolling Stones were merely tax exiles never refugees like these people.

3 thoughts on “Exile on Main Street

  1. Police arrest doctor for holding sign supporting refugees says:


    Refugee activist and medical doctor Kamala Emanuel was arrested by Queensland Police on May 15 for holding a sign. The sign said “COVID-19: Just one more reason to free the refugees”.

    Her account of her arrest and subsequent arrest can be found here:

    The arrest took place at a solidarity action for refugees outside a Kangaroo Point hotel that is being used as an “Alternative Place of Detention”. This was the fifth weekly solidarity action.

    Activists have been highlighting the additional risk of COVID-19 to refugees detained in this way.

    Others were harassed by police at the action and at least two other people were fined. This escalation of police harassment follows a similar police response the week before:

  2. Dutton’s ASIO bill goes Kafkaesque says:

    Dutton’s ASIO bill goes Kafkaesque.

    Author: Justin Glyn. Eureka Street, Vol 30 No 10, 18 May 2020

    The new ASIO Powers Amendment Bill 2020 is being rushed through Parliament in a time of pandemic, guaranteeing that it will lack even the minimal level of scrutiny normally accorded to legislation dealing with ‘national security’.

    Read more: https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article/dutton-s-asio-bill-goes-kafkaesque

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