by Joy Connor 17 January 2018
Hunger strikes at Villawood and Maribyrnong Detention Centres
Over two hundred detainees at two detention centres, Villawood in Sydney and Maribyrnong in Melbourne, have declared a hunger strike in protest at visiting restrictions recently announced by Border Force. The detainees have been on hunger strike for more than 24 hours, since the morning of Monday 15 January.
Posters declaring the changes would apply after 22 January went up unannounced in the centres, last week. Detainees only found out about the policy when told by their visitors.
Under the restrictions, visitors will have to give five days’ notice of any visit, fill in a five-page form, with actual visits restricted to one on one. Visitors will also be required to have 100 points of ID when they attend the detention centre to visit.
The restrictions will hit families especially hard. Visiting minors will also now need identification.
These restrictions come on top of recent moves by Border Force to restrict what food can be brought into the detention centre and the attempt to ban mobile phones.
There are a drugs coming in to detention centre’s which these restrictions are meant to stop. Unfortunately our government has only one solution to problems and that is to use force and restrict freedom as a deterrent. These restrictions come on top of measures to handcuff people taken to appointments outside the detention centres (including appointments for counseling for trauma) and strip searching detainees leaving the visiting area. Long time visitors feel the deep sense of despair which currently pervades detention centre is adding to the drug problems and people just feel life is just too hard to bear.
The drug problem is being increased by the large number of people detained in detention centres who have served time in Australian jails and are being deported under the 501 visa cancellation. Many of this group were originally jailed for drug crimes.
Under the announced changes, there will also be restrictions on the amount of property that is allowable for any detainee.
The changes are similar to changes that were announced in September last year but which were substantially withdrawn after protests at the time. Both the attempt to ban mobile phones and food are the subject of legal action taken on behalf of detainees against Border Force. Detainees are angry that the changes have been declared without any prior consultation with detainees or visitors.
A letter drafted by the detainees was delivered to Border Force officials yesterday. It is understood that Border Force officials will meet with detainees’ representatives today (Tuesday) to formally announce the new policy.
“The old visiting arrangements have been in place for many years” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. “There is no new security issue that has emerged to justify these measures.
The government should be ending mandatory detention to allow asylum seekers to live in the community while their claims are being processed.”
Adapted from information supplied by Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713
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