RISE condemns the acts of violence yesterday, against asylum seekers in Villawood detention centre in Sydney, Australia by SERCO security guards under instructions from the Australian department of immigration and border protection. A few days ago, asylum seekers were handed a letter noting that they will be moved to the remote desert camp of Curtin or Yongah Hill in Western Australia. When asylum seekers asked the purpose behind the transfer they were simply told it was an “operational matter”. Lawyers attempted a last-minute legal bid to prevent the transfer but it was unsuccessful.
Yesterday morning security guards forcibly moved about 40 asylum seekers from Villawood to Curtin detention centre and many more are expected to be transferred soon to remote locations. When Villawood asylum seekers refused to be removed they were cuffed and forcibly escorted to the bus. One man is reported to have slashed his wrists but he was immediately bandaged, handcuffed and forced onto the bus. This atrocity carried out in a suburb of Sydney reminds us how Australia has gone beyond accepted human rights norms and perpetuates an oppressive regime against victims of torture, trauma and persecution, seeking asylum in this country.
It is important to remember these asylum seekers have been obtaining legal assistance from lawyers in Sydney and their sudden move to remote locations will further hinder an already flawed asylum claim process. It is a method which RISE ex-detainee members have witnessed being used for over a decade. A method that is used to silence and punish asylum seekers through cruel and degrading treatment until they reach breaking point and decide to self-deport to the countries they are seeking protection from.
When the notorious Curtin immigration detention centre was reopened by the previous Rudd Labor government in 2010, RISE included the following quotes in a media release condemning this move:-
A former Curtin detainee from Iran said, “While we were in Curtin detention our freedom was violated and limited by the authorities who treated us like animals. Even in the Australian zoo, animals have some level of privilege and are given special treatment by workers and veterinary nurses.”
An Afghan ex-detainee from Curtin said, “We saw the same sky and the same people every day surrounded by no love and it numbed our feelings. The isolation of people in this red desert is not a solution for stopping people smugglers profiting from innocent victims of trauma”
Another Afghan ex-detainee from Curtin said, “When I remember Curtin detention center, my whole body starts shaking and I’m still scared of talking about what happened to me while I was there. I saw my friends getting deported over night without any sort of expectations or warning
alarm……. I saw the bad side of Australian treatment for detainees, but I’m not a citizen yet and I would like to bring my family to Australia so I’m not going to give my name publicly”
Curtin is one of the worst remote immigration detention centres in Australia and many RISE members have experienced first-hand what it is like to be detained there. This “facility” shattered people’s lives and the isolated surroundings intimidated people into volunteering to go back to the countries where their lives were jeopardised in the first place. When people spoke out against injustices they were experiencing they were placed in isolation or solitary confinement with no proper oversight or accountability. Ex-detainees who were imprisoned in Curtin by the previous governments of Australia are still struggling daily to forget the trauma they experienced in this camp. Now the Minister of Immigration Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Tony Abbott condemned the Villawood asylum seekers to the same terrible fate.