Back to El Alamein
…And lonely lonely lonely
are the hearts of men;
the waves the waves the waves
break, forever break,
against the stone in our breasts
The following was a report from Pamela Curr, Campaign Coordinator, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre ASRC, www.asrc.org.au It refers to events in October of 2008
As the detention of Doctor Haneef once more highlights the seemingly limitless power of the Immigration Act, it is worth remembering other cases where people have been released by the Courts and the Immigration Minister has then turned gaoler under his own powers.
When charges were dismissed for lack of evidence, the 27 crew members of the Pong Su were released by the Court, only to be scooped up by the Immigration department (then DIMA-now DIAC) and taken out to Baxter detention centre. There they languished in secret in a formerly, unused compound until the day that other detainees became aware of their presence.
Policy changes in the Baxter hellhole allowed detainees to be escorted on foot between compounds instead of in locked vans. On one such occasion, detainees attention was called to this never used compound by cries and eyes peering over the compound walls.
Detainee contacted advocates with their concern for these people. “We don’t know who they are but they are crying for help and we can only see their eyes. We don’t think that they are Chinese- we can’t understand their language.” The guard asked them to disregard what they had seen because “you will get me in trouble”.
Subsequent investigations revealed that they might be the crew of the ‘Pong Su’. This was confirmed when a list of names was produced. The list indicated the likelihood that many of these sailors were most likely fathers and sons. They were not seeking asylum. They desperately wanted to go home to their families but DIMA were holding them for their own purposes. It was only after it was revealed how distressed they were at being held incommunicado that they were finally granted their wish to leave- 13 weeks after the Courts had found them not guilty of any crime.
Technically the power to detain under the Migration act is so that persons can be removed from Australia, however as we have witnessed in the case of long term detainees, this power in reality allows the Australian government to hold a person for their entire lives without charge or judicial oversight.
Pamela Curr http://justfreedom.org.au
12 Batman St West Melbourne 3003, ph 03 93266066 fax 03 93265199
Currently hundreds of Australian soldiers are camped above the Baxter Detention Centre in tents waiting for the last detainees to leave so that they can move in and take it back. They are training at Port Augusta for deployment to Afghanistan. The Baxter Detention Centre was originally an army base called El Alamein until 2002 when the Immigration Department took it over to imprison asylum seekers and their children.
There are nine compounds. Only 1 compound is in use today as the numbers of people detained have dwindled. The last statistic (April 2007) was 18 in Baxter and 10 in Port Augusta Housing Detention Centre, 2 are woman. Not all are asylum seekers- some are people transferred from the Prison system who are waiting to be removed from Australia.
Millions of dollars are being spent to maintain this inhumane place. Some of these asylum seekers are desperately ill, having attempted suicide. They come from countries known for their brutality and lack of human rights. Some have waited years for a decision.
Closing Baxter is a political decision- the soldiers will have to wait as the asylum seekers have waited. Will the soldiers feel the ghosts of the broken spirits of the hundreds of Afghani refugees who were imprisoned in these compounds? One day refugees locked up in Baxter, the next Australian soldiers training there to go off to war to create more refugees.
Detention Camps Closed
Woomera, Port Hedland, Curtin, Manus Island.
Ayslum Seekers Refugee Centre, Melbourne (ASRC)