“As ex-detainees in Australia, we acknowledge that the land we seek protection on is the land of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples”
We, ex-detainees at RISE in Australia, mark the 3rd of September 2017 as Ex-Detainees’ Day, for all asylum seekers and refugees who have been forcefully detained whilst seeking protection. This is our 2nd annual Ex-detainees’ day. Crucially, this initiative is entirely managed and controlled by ex-detainees who are asylum seekers and refugees in Australia, as an assertion of our self determination.
The 3rd of September will serve to commemorate and raise the collective voice of asylum seekers and refugees around the world, who are facing discrimination and criminalisation due to detainment. Ex-Detainees’ Day will highlight and oppose all forms of refugee and asylum seeker detention we are subjected to globally: whether detention lasts 1 day, 30 days, 1 year, or longer periods of time.
Asylum seeker and refugee detainees are among the most persecuted and oppressed people in the world. We endured abuse in our own countries, and upon seeking protection, are disenfranchised and suffer institutional abuse within detention systems. Immigration detention centres are arbitrary and nefarious forms of state violence; they function to subjugate asylum seekers and refugees by imprisonment.
Furthermore, we ex-detainees who have sought protection and freedom in Australia, acknowledge that we live on colonised land where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ sovereignty has never been ceded. We recognise that the racism that pervades this country’s institutions and public spheres – which we have been subjected to in Australia’s mandatory, indefinite detention system – has its foundations in the systemic and structural violence that Indigenous peoples of this country continue to experience to this day.
We require support and protection, not incarceration. States have the obligation to uphold our human rights; not exploit us for political gain. We denounce the torture, deportation, abuse and bloodshed occurring in immigration detention centres. We condemn governments, private companies and nonprofit agencies who are part of the detention supply chain.
By holding refugees and asylum seekers hostage in detention centres, governments and private companies are committing crimes against humanity with impunity, adding to the trauma we have suffered. Many detainees have been forcibly deported or self-deported due to the unbearable torture they experienced in detention back to countries they fled from; and were consequently tortured or killed upon arrival.
Individually we have been impacted so severely by this systematic violence that the cost to ourselves and to our communities as a result of this state-sanctioned trauma cannot be measured. Therefore, in addition to accountability, we seek reparations for the irreversible damage inflicted upon us and our communities.
HOW WE INITIATED THIS DAY:
At RISE, we have been running a self-support group for refugee and asylum seeker ex-detainees (run by and for ex-detainees), once a week since 2015. We come together to discuss the hardships we faced during our time in detention centres, and support one another to cope with the resulting trauma. The initiative to create an Ex-Detainees’ Day to highlight our experiences came from this support group.
As ex-detainees, our firsthand experience attests to multiple human rights violations. Whilst detained, we suffered and witnessed deportation, suicide, torture, sexual abuse and racial vilification without access to justice. We jumped from the frying pan and into the fire; we ran from one oppressor to another. The government considered us inferior and our determination to continue was extinguished.
Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not limited to Australia. All over the world, our lives and voices are suppressed. There is no accountability in immigration detention centres – and this must stop. Unless we collectively boycott and globally condemn detention nothing will change. We are certain Ex-Detainees’ Day will be a catalyst for this discussion and the abolishment of immigration detention centres.
For those who ask us: “but what is the alternative to detention of asylum seekers and refugees? ”We say this: the ONLY alternative to detention is NO DETENTION with FREEDOM, JUSTICE and proper humanitarian safeguards. As refugees and asylum seekers, we refuse to apologise for our survival and self-determination. We will not be commodified and criminalised for simply being humans who survived persecution, torture and abuse.
While we are starting this unique initiative in Australia, we also have been in touch with ex-detainees around the world. We will continue to reach out to and connect with other ex-detainees in countries where refugees and asylum seekers have been incarcerated in detention centres.
How YOU can support Ex-Detainees Day for Asylum Seekers and Refugees
1. Take action by supporting RISE’s campaign of ending all forms of asylum seeker and refugee detainment, and provide space and resources for ex-detainees to not only speak out, but to have full control in shaping this day.
2. Boycott and divest from government and non-governmental entities such as security firms and not-for-profit companies that are part of the immigration detention and “border security” supply chain; and continuously promote these actions across your networks.
3. Call for proper accountability and reparations for detainees past and present, along with those connected to them who have been affected by the abusive immigration detention system.
Ex-detainees in Australia.
RISE: Refugees Survivors and Ex-detainees