"Life" in Detention 

One Man's Web > Politics and Ethics > Australia and the refugees > Life in Detention
Posted 29/6/2003

People don't just rot in detention.  The Government makes it hard for them and tries to get them to give up.. 

From friends, and a Uniting Church Mailing List......

February 2003

Sorry I did not reply earlier but have been in Sydney for a meeting....
Most of the Iranians in detention now are either Christian or Mandean people who fear religious persecution if they go back home. In Port Hedland at the moment there are 60 Christians- mostly Iranian or Sri Lankan, and 50 Muslims- so much for the assumption that most people in detention are Muslims.

Since the fire there have been extraordinary efforts to try to get the Iranians to go back home- a delegation of DIMIA bureaucrats from Canberra, and a parliamentary delegation have both visited PH and spoken to the Iranians individually and in groups trying to persuade them to go back home. They are very distressed about this.

Ruddock has a big problem. He cannot forcibly deport them and they are unwilling to return to religious persecution. What is he going to do with them?
(Rev Bev Fabb)

Well, as we have seen, he can try and bribe them, or make it look like Iran wants them back.

A reply shortly after:
Dear Andrew
Allan and I have been visiting at Baxter and the situation is similar to Port Headland.  Many of the "prisoners" are Iranian who are either Christian or Mandean. (There is also a Viet Namese couple and Sri Lankans who are Christians.) They seem to be confused about why some were accepted as refugees and allowed out of detention and they were not.  They can't understand why some are believed and yet they were not.  They are severely stressed and worried.  For them, returning to Iran is not an option they can accept.  Most have been in detention for more than two years and it is wearing them down.  They have also been through a difficult time since the fires with "privileges" being taken away e.g. visits and phone calls for the single men, occasional shopping excursions for the women and other excursions for the children.  These are starting to be returned.  The men were completely isolated from outside contact for quite a while and some were put in "management" which is like solitary confinement where they are observed 24 hrs a day, even going to the toilet, and they have no TV, phone, etc.  They are taunted by the guards (several have said this).

Visiting is being restricted as they only allow 13 people total (visitors and detainees) in the visitors centre at one time.  They say this is because of fire safety regulations, but I think there are ulterior motives.  The visitors centre has room for twice this number (I have seen 40 in it at times) and there is a large outside area which can also be used when the weather is OK.  One has to wonder why a "purpose built facility" costing millions of dollars and with the capacity to hold 1200 people has a visitors centre that can only hold 13 at a time!  Joan

Senator Stott-Despoja
Dear Rev Prior,
Thank you for your email. I apologise for the delay in replying.

I note your concern at news that the Australian Government have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This MOU covers numerous policy areas, but of particular concern are measures that facilitate the repatriation of Iranian citizens seeking asylum in Australia.

When it was announced that out Government had entered into a MOU with the Iranian Government, the Australian Democrats initiated a Return to Order debate in the Senate which ordered the Government to table the MOU. The Government refused to observe this Senate order, stating that it was not in the public interest that the MOU be tabled.

During the recent Estimate Committee process, the Australian Democrats questioned officials from the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and learnt that the Government has sought no assurances for the safety of those being repatriated to Iran. This is despite evidence of persistent and widespread abuse of human rights by organs of the State in Iran.

We believe that to bribe people to return to a country they were forced to flee from is wrong. To seek no assurances of their safety once they return is criminal.

I have attached some information for your interest and encourage you to continue your campaigns.

Yours sincerely,
Natasha Stott Despoja


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