We request that all RISE members and refugees to stay safe during this weekend.
We refugees, asylum seekers and ex-detainees at RISE condemn the Federal government’s disturbing announcement that “Australian Border Force” (ABF) officers will check people’s visas on the streets and public transport in various parts of Australia this weekend. This is a complete slap in the face not only for refugee and asylum seeker community groups but also for people of colour.
The ABF spokesperson says that they do not “target on the basis of race, religion, or ethnicity.” This is a disingenuous claim when the Department of immigration and border protection’s (DIBP) own data reveals that more than 90% of those held in immigration detention are from non-European countries while a much larger number of those living without visas in the community are from Europe and North America. We have also not forgotten the recent incident of an Aboriginal Australian detained in Yongah Hill immigration detention centre and reports that it was not his first experience of being detained.
Further, we question how this militaristic operation will be carried out as these forces invade our streets and our community and on what basis? What methods will they use to verify whether a man, woman or child in our community has a valid VISA? Who will save our members from arbitrary and indefinite detention outside the law?
Many of our members who are still in the process claiming refugee status have expired visas that have not been renewed by the Department of Immigration and are unable to contact immigration case managers to seek proper assistance regarding this. Already, our members who don’t speak English have reported to us their traumatic experiences of being booked by ticketing inspectors due to communication barriers as well as being subjected to frequent interrogation though ‘Stop and Search’ operations by Victoria Police and “random checks” by Protective Services Officers (PSO). It brings back disturbing memories of being rounded up, taken into custody and tortured in our countries before we sought refuge in Australia.
This is a dirty war conducted by Australia’s white supremacist government against asylum seekers and refugees with no accountability whatsoever in and outside detention centres.