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January 21, 2011

HUNGER STRIKE WAS GOVERNMENT’S FAULT– DETAINEES TOLD THEIR CLAIMS WILL BE SPED UP

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media release January 21, 2011

“The Curtin hunger strike may be over but the issues are far from resolved,” says Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“After flying an immigration department from Perth, the government says that they will bring a rep from Canberra to meet with the asylum seekers within two or three weeks. Why two or three weeks?

“They have admitted that the Curtin detainees ‘need more information’, but are going to let them wait another three weeks before they give it to them. It is an indication of the contempt they have for asylum seekers and for addressing and rectifying their own mistakes

“Worse, despite departmental denials this morning, detainees were told that the department will process their application more quickly. That commitment may not be in writing [see text of letter handed to detainees below] but Departmental representatives at Curtin clearly told the Curtin protesters that their claims processing would be speeded up.

“The regional manager blamed holidays in Canberra for the delays. One detainee told the Refugee Action Coalition, ‘We asked if everyone including the media would see the letter. He said the letter would be given to everyone and to every newspaper. He promised to speed the process which was slow because of the holidays with many staff in Canberra on holiday.’

“We need an end to the culture of lies and cover-up that dominates the Immigration Department. The promise to process claims quickly must be kept,” said Rintoul.

“The admission by an Immigration Department spokesperson that ‘Curtin detainees need more information about their claims’ is a massive understatement and still does not recognize the serious situation that had been allowed to develop at Curtin,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The Department’s determination to cover up and remain unaccountable was on display throughout the crisis. Seventy-eight people required medical assistance but, If you listened to the Immigration Department spokesperson it was a trivial incident rather than what was perhaps the biggest hunger strike we have seen in the history of immigration detention.

“It is shocking that asylum seekers have to resort to such desperate actions before the Immigration department would respond to their requests.”

“The underlying issue of the off-shore processing will not be dealt with by the visiting Department official in three weeks time. The ball is in the Minister’s court. It has been the government’s political meddling in the off-shore processing that has resulted in higher rates of rejection. Off-shore processing is discriminatory and unfair. It should be scrapped.

“Unless this issue is addressed, there will be more protests at Curtin – and other detention centres.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

Transcribed text of letter given to detainees:

As discussed in your meeting with Mr. Mark, Serco’s centre manager, I can confirm that my colleagues within the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) acknowledge your requests as detailed in your letter to me which I have forwarded to Canberra. I understand that you agreed to end your protest activity – in return the Department will arrange for senior officers to attend the IDC and discuss your concerns. My colleagues in National Office agreed to this request and I am advised that the Senior Departmental Officer will be available to attend the IDC within 2 to 3 weeks. We will ensure that you are kept apprised of the visit and appropriate arrangements are implemented to ensure that the clients have the opportunity to engage with the officers who visit Curtin IDC.

Our main priority is your health and well-being and we are pleased that you have agreed to end this protest activity. In the event that protest activity resumes, the Department will have to cancel the visit by the senior departmental officers. Please continue to raise your concerns with your case manager and local DIAC staff. The team is keen to work with you and ensure that we do everything possible to ensure your needs are met while you are in immigration detention at Curtin IDC. I have copied this letter to my  managers in Canberra Mr. Peter Richards, Assistant Secretary, Detention  Operations, West Branch and Miss. Deborah Jacka A-G (?) First Assistant,  Community and Detention Operations Division,

Yours sincerely

Troi Sokoloff
Regional Manager Curtin IDC

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