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September 21, 2010

VILLAWOOD CHAOS CONTINUES–Refugee Groups Urge Immigration Department to Act Urgently to Avert Tragedy

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media Release September 21, 2010

Refugee groups are urging the Immigration department to act urgently to avert another tragedy at Villawood detention centre. Negotiations inside the detention centre are at a standstill.

Meanwhile there are reports that at least one Chinese man is now on the roof of another building in stage 2 – the same area where the Fijian man jumped to his death yesterday.

Four of the roof top protesters have now cut themselves but have refused medical attention saying why should they see a doctor, they will die anyway.

The roof-top protesters have proposed that Immigration meet with a delegation of other asylum seekers as their representatives but this has so far been rejected by the Department.

The Department has insisted that they will only speak with the protesters after they come down from the roof.

The protesters have also agreed to end their protest if UNHCR agrees to undertake an independent review of their cases. This is something that is often down by UNHCR after appeals processes have been exhausted under Australian law.

“Both proposals to end the stand-off are entirely reasonable. There is no reason whatsoever for the department to refuse to meet a delegation of asylum seekers. Where is the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen in this? We are calling on the new Minister to personally attend Villawood to personally meet the detainees and end the stand-off,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“It is time for the Immigration Department to end their bloody-minded approach and step back from the brink. The refusal of the Immigration department to enter any kind of discussions is adding to the detainees’ anxiety and the possibility of another tragedy at Villawood.”

“The asylum seekers at Villawood are victims of a deeply flawed determination process. Offshore processing is not genuinely independent. Already at least 10 of the original 31 Tamils transferred from Christmas Island have had their initial rejections overturned.

“If there is another tragedy at Villawood, the blame will again lie with the Immigration Department and the Minister.”

A protest has been called for 5pm at the Birmingham Avenues gate to the Villawood detention centre.

An open letter has been drafted in consultation with the detainees – see below.

For more information, contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

Open letter from Villawood protesters:

To whom may this concern,

We the 11 asylum seekers on the Villawood detention centre roof kindly  request the the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship to  accept our applications under the guidelines of the UN refugee convention.  We will get off the roof if the Department of Immigration and Citizenship  will give us proof of this undertaking in writing.

We are genuine refugees and came to Australia to seek protection – not to  be detained in an unlawful way. Some of us, including women and children,  in detention are UN mandated refugees with UNHCR cards. We ask for a firm  undertaking from the Department that we will be resettled in Australia or  any country that has signed the Refugee Convention and that we won’t be  deported back to our countries of origin.

This is a peaceful protest for freedom for refugees all around Australia  and we will continue it. Further we would like to talk to a representative  from the UNHCR to them directly about our concern and be part of the  negotiations with DIAC.

Kind regards,

Villawood protesters

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